The Story of the Whistlers

‘As a young anthropologist in 2000, I was living in a mountain village in the Georgian Caucasus. I’d heard rumours about people who live with birds but a young boy from the village had connected with a Whistler child and took me to meet them. This was the start of an incredible journey.’

Lynne Passerine, Director of the Whistler Conservation Society

The Story

Just as fishermen in Brazil have learned to fish with bottle-nosed dolphins, the Whistler people have developed a sophisticated mutual relationship with songbirds. We don’t know how this relationship started but it has developed over a thousand years or so. With it has developed a rich language of whistles & vocal sounds that has replaced the spoken language of the Whistlers’ ancestors.

The Whistlers have lived in the ancient forests of the Caucasus mountains for many centuries – perhaps as far back as 250 AD. At some point – perhaps during the Mongol conquest of the Caucasus region – a group moved West and settled in the Carpathian mountains. But in recent years they have begun to move further afield.

The Whistler Conservation Society was founded by a group of anthropologists in Tbilisi, Georgia in 2010, to protect the Whistler people and reduce the threats to their culture & lifestyle.

Villagers in several mountain regions send us reports of Whistler sightings. In recent years they have also kept us up to date with logging and other developments that have been devastating the forest. In some places, especially in Western Ukraine and in Northern Georgia, sightings have become rare. At the same time, Whistlers have been sighted in unexpected places – popping up in small woodlands across Western Europe.

Red Herring have been working alongside Lynne Passerine since 2019 to promote their work and develop engagement tools to communicate with diverse groups of people in the communities in which the Whistlers have settled.

Are you an event producer? If so, click HERE for details of our work

Like to learn more about The Whistlers? The Legend of the Whistlers describes this relationship and the unique Whistler culture.

Join Lynne Passerine at a suspected Whistler site, to find out more about the world of the Whistlers and how to track them.

Listen to a live recording of two Whistler children. Ava Coucal describes the experience of travelling with Lynne Passerine into the heart of the Carpathian Mountains and her first Whistler sighting. Click here for a version with written captions.

Thanks to our partners: Le Citron Jaune, Festival International des Arts de la Rue Chassepierre, Cirque Jules Verne, Activate and Arts Council England.