Bird Watching

How songbirds produce their song

Songbirds - Feathered Singers

It is particularly beautiful on a spring morning in the forest or garden: the lively chirping, chirping, fluting and trilling of the various songbirds. But how do the feathered singers actually produce their sounds and which birds belong to the suborder of passerine birds?

Which birds are songbirds?

About 5,000 bird species belong to the suborder of songbirds. However, not all beaks make a lovely chirping sound. The common raven, for example, also belongs to the songbirds and is their largest representative. The smallest songbird in Europe is the goldcrest. The wren is also small and equipped with an unmistakable voice. The nightingale, which is known for its beguiling nocturnal singing, has the largest repertoire of verses and melodies.

Why do songbirds warble?

Birds usually sing for two reasons: On the one hand, they want to use the song to attract a breeding partner. On the other hand, singing also serves to defend the territory. In most cases, a singing blackbird wants to say: “This is my garden, this is where I breed!” In both cases, of course, the birds want to be heard from afar so that the message reaches all potential partners and competitors. In the big city, birds have been shown to sing louder and earlier to drown out traffic noise.

How do songbirds sing?

In humans, voice production takes place in the larynx. In birds, on the other hand, this is only responsible for breathing. Birds sing much deeper in the body, in the lower larynx, also called the vocal tract. There the trachea bifurcates into the two main bronchi. In addition to their lungs, songbirds have air sacs similar to small bellows. These make it possible to breathe and sing simultaneously and independently. The breathing air goes into the lungs, the air for singing into the air sacs. The songbird then releases the air from the sacs and presses it through the vocal head.

The loudness of a songbird hardly depends on its body size, but rather on the pressure with which the air is pushed through the vocal head. Pitch, however, is determined by size—that’s why little birds sing so much higher than we do.

Cover photo by wal_172619 on Pixabay


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