The Listening to Birds Blog

Song Thrush by Nigel Pye http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/njpphotography/

February 1, 2008

Why bird sounds?

Filed under: Methods — Tags: , , — Andrew Whitehouse @ 12:19 pm

A couple of days ago I read this interesting report about how scientists have discovered that certain sounds made by Anna’s hummingbirds are produced mechanically by the tail feathers rather than being vocalisations. This reminded me to explain why the Listening to Birds project is about bird sounds in the broadest possible sense. Perhaps when I mention ‘listening to birds’ people at first think of bird song or more broadly bird vocalisations. But birds make lots of beautiful, startling and evocative sounds that aren’t produced through the syrinx, the specialised organ they use to produce songs and calls. Perhaps the most obvious example of these ‘other sounds’ is the drumming of a woodpecker. But there are others. As birds move through the air the wings rush and whir. And birds make all kinds of other sounds as they interact with their physical surroundings, sounds like the gushing of a duck or swan as it lands on the water.

I made the following recording last weekend at Caerlaverock Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust reserve in the south of Scotland. The recording was made just after 7am, a short time before sunrise. I was hearing lots of vocalisations from ducks, geese and waders but some of my favourite sounds were the whirring of wings or the splashing of ducks landing in the water. I love the feeling of the movement of birds that these sounds evoke.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

So this is a project that is concerned with every kind of sound that a bird makes and I’d be interested in hearing about your experiences of these ‘other birds sounds’ through the contribute section of the website.

The University of Aberdeen