Ten neat things about birds and their song

1. Birds can learn new songs.Most songbirds learn to sing in their first sixty days. They usually learn from their parents but a baby bird exposed to taped songs or songs of another species may learn
songs that differ from those of their parents. The average songbird knows about eight songs. Certain species (parrots) are great mimics and have vast repertoires. Some birds, especially
those that nest in cavities, know how to make a hissing sound like a snake to ward off predators.

2. I’m just a lonely bird. Birds that have not learned to sing the songs of their own species successfully will probably never get a mate and will not be able to gain a territory.

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3. Sing in spring. Birds don’t actually start singing until they are about 300 days old or in the spring of their first year of life.

4. Bird talk. Different songs have different meanings for birds. Their conversations are usually about reproduction, territorial boundaries or even overall health. Specific trill sequences require top-notch fitness to reproduce. They also sing songs of aggression that can precede actual physical contact.

5. Calling all birds. Birds also have mobbing calls to recruit others when there is a threat from predators such as an owl. The calls are characterized by a sharp onset, wide frequency and sharp termination

6. Sexy songs. The number of songs in a bird’s repertoire indicates age and experience, both attractive to females. In wrens, which are generally quite faithful to their mates, a rival male may entice a wife into an extra marital encounter with his wonderful singing.

7. Singing duets. Some species can time their singing together in perfect duets. Others counter-sing over territorial issues, one bird making a call and another replying. Birds will also sing in response to mechanical or other music they hear.

8. I’ll do the singing around here. Most bird song is done by males. And some birds can sing on the wing, although most do their singing from a solid perch.

9. Polly wanna cracker! Chicks can recognize their parents and vice versa. Chick talk, called juvenile begging, is usually about food. It’s usually strident and loud.

10. People songs learned from birds. Many composers have been inspired by birdsong either consciously or unconsciously. For example, Janequin’s 16th century composition, Le Chant Des
Oiseaux imitates birdsong. Vivaldi’s Spring from the Four Seasons, Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony and Wagner’s Seigfried have quoted or been inspired by birdsong. Respighi’s The Pines of Rome, composed in 1923-24, actually uses pre-recorded birdsong in the piece.

© Deloraine Times & Star

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