Birdsong

Trowbridge and Southwick, all locked down and emptied of traffic, are full of birdsong. Here are some interesting facts about birdsong.

  • Usually, it’s the male bird that sings; he uses his song to attract a mate and stake out a territory for their nest. On the whole birdsong is about sex and war.
  • There are exceptions to every rule: both male and female robins sing and they sing all the year round, in the summer to defend nest sites and in the winter to defend their feeding territories.
  • Songbirds have a complicated vocal organ called a syrinx that other birds do not have.
  • The nightingale is believed to sing the most complicated and beautiful song of all songbirds.

Nightingale recorded by Oliver Swift

  • Songbirds aren’t born knowing their songs; they learn them from adult birds. They practice and perfect their songs whereas the calls of other birds are hard-wired into them from birth.
  • Songbirds sing in different dialects depending on where they learned their song, in much the same way that people have accents depending on where they grew up.
  • Several songbird species elaborate their songs with phrases copied from other species. Marsh warblers do this.
  • The songs of many bird species are very complex and can contain dozens of notes per second; researchers have shown that songbirds can take as many as 30 mini breaths every second.

Skylark recorded by david m (xeno-canto.org)

  • Some songbirds such as starlings and goldfinches like to sing as a group,
  • When birds moult, after their breeding season, they rarely sing. A moulting bird is incapacitated by the loss of its feathers and physically stressed by the need to grow new ones; it prefers to retire quietly into the undergrowth.

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