how do birds make noise

Nyssa graduated from Vanderbilt University with her bachelor’s in Neuroscience with a minor in Psychology. While at Vanderbilt, she conducted research with the Creanza Lab specifically in urbanization and city noise and how that affects birdsong in species such as the northern cardinal. Currently, her project focuses on how northern cardinals in Nashville respond to sources of noise such as buildings and roads. Moving forward, she will be attending UT Southwestern Medical School to continue to pursue her interests in biology and spatial analyses as a physician.

Dr. Searfoss received her PhD from Vanderbilt University in 2020. Her doctoral research focused on developing new computer-based tools to break down complex bird songs into smaller pieces that can be measured and compared. She then used this computer program to study the songs of a small bird called the Chipping Sparrow. She asked questions like: Does the Chipping Sparrow’s song sound different in the Eastern and Western United States? Do Chipping Sparrows sound different now than they did in the 1950s when people began recording them for the first time? Since graduation, Abigail has been working at an education technology startup in Nashville.

Dr. Creanza is an Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences at Vanderbilt University. Her research focuses on behavioral evolution: how behaviors that have to be learned, like bird songs and human languages, change over many generations. In her lab at Vanderbilt, she works with students on to answer two main types of questions about behavioral evolution. First, if we study lots of birdsong recordings, can we find patterns—such as differences between urban and rural songs—that teach us how birds are using their songs? Second, can we build simulations (like automated video games!) that show us how the rules of the game affect how behaviors change over time? Even though bird’s songs are not exactly like languages, we can ask similar questions about languages and how they have changed throughout human history. *

I love all kinds of science, but especially space sciences. I love reading fantasy and science fiction especially about space travel. I want to go Mars someday or at least contribute to the mission to Mars. I like playing Minecraft and Roblox with my little brother. I also love soccer, mountain biking, and taekwondo. I currently live in Germany but I am from Temple Terrace, Florida, and look forward to returning to Florida in a few years.

Have you ever raised your voice because someone could not hear you? Imagine talking to a friend in a peaceful park. Now imagine trying to talk on a busy street or near a highway. The traffic noise makes it difficult to communicate, and you may speak up so your friend can hear you. Other animals have this issue, too. Songbirds can live in various environments, such as forests and grasslands, and they use their songs to communicate with each other. As cities grow and invade their habitats, birds may find it harder to hear one another. To be heard, some birds might change their songs. For example, some birds in cities sing louder, longer, or at a higher pitch than rural birds. Researchers are studying this problem: how does human-made noise affect birdsong? Answering this question is important so we can protect the birds around us and their habitats.

Almost all birds use the syrinx, an organ specific to birds, to produce sound. The syrinx of many songbirds is little more than a raindrop in size. It is so efficient that almost all of the air that goes through it is used. In contrast, a human uses only 2% of the air that is exhaled through the larynx to produce sound. Vocal range is restricted in birds whose syrinx is controlled by a single set of muscles. This Song Sparrow can produce a waterfall of trills and notes by using multiple pairs.

This is BirdNote! [Call of the Northern Cardinal; Song of the Song Sparrow; Song of the Brandt’s Cormorant] You have just heard a cardinal’s whistle, a cormorant’s grunt, and a song sparrow’s. Almost all birds use the syrinx, an organ specific to birds, to produce sound. [Cardinal song] The syrinx is a group of muscles and membranes where the two bronchial tube branches meet to form the trachea. An adjacent air-sac helps build pressure in the syrinx. This entire mechanism for producing songs in many songbirds is not much larger than a raindrop. The syrinx uses almost all of the air that passes through it to produce sound, making it incredibly effective. Let’s take another listen to the cormorant’s restricted vocal range, which is produced by a single set of muscles controlling its syrinx [Call of the cormorant]. Similar to many other songbirds, the Song Sparrow possesses five to seven pairs of muscles that control the syrinx. The cardinal produces its pure whistle by simultaneously producing sound in its left and right bronchial tubes [Song of the cardinal]. It releases a waterfall of notes and trills, sounding like it is performing a duet with itself [the Song Sparrow song]. I’m Michael Stein. ### Bird sounds provided by the Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Brandt’s Cormorant recorded by G. F. Budney; Northern Cardinal recorded by G. A. Keller; Song Sparrow recorded by G. A. Keller. Executive Producer: Chris Peterson; Producer: John Kessler © 2014 Tune In to Nature org April 2014 / 2021 / July 2023.

Why Do Birds Sing?

People speak to each other in order to exchange information or communicate. Birds and humans are similar in that they use calls and songs to communicate. Birds create sounds by passing air through an organ called the syrinx, whereas humans use their vocal cords to push air from their lungs through them in order to speak. Some birds are not songbirds, even though you may have heard them singing. For instance, pigeons and chickens are not songbirds and only make brief, basic “calls” to communicate. On the other hand, songbirds, like robins and sparrows, sing lovely tunes that you might hear in your neighborhood (Figure 1) Male songbirds typically sing in order to communicate with other members of their species and to entice potential mates. Even now, men utilize songs to keep other men out of their territories. Birds sing as an essential social tool, and a bird’s ability to make a song that is easily heard can influence its chances of finding a mate and raising young.

  • Figure 1 – A male American robin.
  • Songs by Robins can have a “cheerily, cheer up, cheerily, cheer up” vibe to them1. Since American robins are widespread throughout the country, many residents may regularly see and hear them in their backyard. Reading the graph, which depicts the robin’s song, is similar to reading sheet music. The graph is read from left to right because the x-axis displays time. Pitch is displayed on the y-axis in a manner akin to how musical notes are written at various heights on a staff.

Songs Change Closer to Cities

Birds may find it more difficult to hear each other’s songs when there is noise, such as construction or traffic. In order to be heard above background noise, certain birds may sing louder, longer, or at a higher pitch when the noise level around their habitat increases [4]. Since those changes may have a cost, scientists are currently investigating whether a male’s capacity to find partners in the city is impacted by these changes in their songs [4]. Living close to low-frequency traffic noise and having to sing louder or higher in pitch can be stressful for songbirds [5]. Scientists have observed that songbirds frequently choose to relocate their homes outside of cities due to the stresses of urban life. This would be similar to constantly using your “outside voice” and cause sore throats. It’s possible that the noise of the city drowns out the songs of the species that used to be common in urban areas with high background noise [6].

Numerous investigations have been conducted to examine how birds alter their song in noisy environments. In a noteworthy study, common blackbird songs were recorded in Vienna, Austria’s inner city and in the surrounding woods [4]. The two blackbird populations were about 4 miles apart. Early in the morning, when songbirds sing most frequently, the songs were measured. When compared to the rural birds in the woods, the city birds’ loudest part of the song had a much higher pitch (Figure 3). The city birds sang earlier in the morning, perhaps to avoid the loud car traffic, and used fewer notes than the rural birds, making their sound more like a flute rather than a tuba. Birds in the city also sang more quickly; rather than waiting a set amount of time between notes, they would shorten their pauses and sing more quickly [4].

  • Figure 3: An Austrian study backed up the theory that birds’ singing can be altered by urban noise.
  • Urban blackbirds have a higher pitch of song than their rural counterparts (top)2. The study’s locations around Vienna are depicted on the map; the purple star denotes a rural setting and the yellow star an urban one.

Many other bird species worldwide also exhibit this change in song! A study that examined the songs of 55 different bird species discovered a general pattern: the birds generally raised their pitch in response to background noise [7]. Even though it requires more energy, singing louder is another way that birds can adapt [8]. Although smaller songbirds alter the pitch of their songs more frequently than larger ones, larger birds typically sing louder [7]. Like oscine species, learning songs could be crucial for adjusting to a changing environment. Songbird species that learn their songs may adapt to their environments more readily than species that do not learn their songs because the young mimic what it feels like to move notes around and listen to themselves to test their songs [3]. However, further research is required.


How do birds sing so loudly?

Nearly all birds produce sound through an organ unique to birds, the syrinx. In many songbirds, the syrinx is not much bigger than a raindrop. Extremely efficient, it uses nearly all the air that passes through it. By contrast, a human creates sound using only 2% of the air exhaled through the larynx.

What produces sound in birds?

Syrinx is vocal organ of birds. It is located at the base of a bird’s trachea. The sound is produced by vibrations of some or all of the membrana tympaniforms (the walls of the syrinx) and the pessulus caused by air flowing through the syrinx.

Why do birds randomly make noise?

Why Birds Make Noises. Birds make different sounds to express their needs for food and companionship, raise alarms about danger, or just share joy or relieve stress. Young birds generally make fewer sounds, but as they mature, they learn more vocalizations.

What is the sound made by the birds?

A chirp is the short, high sound a bird makes. The chirps of the robins at your bird feeder through the open window might drive your cat crazy. Birds chirp — you could also say they tweet, twitter, cheep, and warble — and some insects chirp too.