The hydraulic automaton of the «chirping birds» and of the «returning owl» (an exceptional automatism of repeating spectacle with motion and sound production)

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The hydraulic automaton of the «chirping birds» and of the «returning owl»
(an exceptional automatism of repeating spectacle with motion and sound production)


It was a conception of Philon of Byzantium (which was improved by Heron of Alexandria) depicting birds chirping when an owl turned away from them and they stopped when it turned towards them. Automatically, the theme was repeated continuously. For the operation of the automaton, water from a spring was driven inside the upper airtight container forcing the air to leave through a pipe. Because the pipe-flute led to water, the oscillating wavelength produced a chirp with notes of different frequency. Then when the water level exceeded the curved siphon of the container, it emptied through it to the intermediate container, diverting a yoke to the side. This forced the built-in rotating shaft supporting the owl to turn towards the birds that then stopped chirping. When the water level exceeded the axial siphon of the intermediate container, it emptied through to the lower container, diverting the yoke towards its counterweight, which caused the owl to turn away from the birds that then began to sing again, etc.

SOURCES: ''Heron of Alexandria, Pneumatics, A 16'', ''Philon of Byzantium, Pneumatics, 61''