Amazing Natural Bird Sounds
A Red-eyed Vireo sings more than 20,000 songs a day. A Pileated Woodpecker drums on a tree at 15 beats per second. A Wilson's Snipe dives through the air, the feathers on its wings vibrating to produce a winnowing sound, hu-hu-hu...
Why? Birds put a lot of effort into singing, drumming, winnowing, and otherwise displaying. They are trying to impress mates and proclaim territories.
Songs are often loud and repetitive, so they tend to be noticed more than other bird sounds. One observer commented that a Winter Wren sings "with remarkable vehemence," as if he were "trying to burst [his] lungs." This tiny songster weighs just one-third of an ounce, but it sings with 10 times the power of a crowing rooster, per unit weight. Birds may sing their songs thousands of times throughout the day. Dickcissels may spend as much as 70 percent of the day singing while establishing territories and courting females.
Some birds have large repertoires--the Brown Thrasher can sing as many as 2,000 distinct songs. Other species, such as the Henslow's Sparrow, seem to have only one song.
In North America, we hear mostly males singing, because they typically take the lead in defending territories and attracting mates. However, especially in the tropics, some species sing duets involving both the male and female.
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