Wake up early during spring and early summer and you’ll hear the dawn chorus. This vigorous morning orchestra from the birds is for sure a beautiful way to start the day.
There is also an ‘evening choir,’ a little quieter birds sing, but still impressive. Unfortunately, such performances in many parts of the world are getting worse; somewhere they stopped altogether.
There are about 9,000 known species of birds, of which about 5,000 are classified into birds of the singing species or subclass Oscines. Even though some female birds are singing, males are the ones who perform stunning musical compositions in the morning and the evening.
A great diversity of songs
Songs vary from simple to complex to perform. The Whitish buccaneer seems satisfied with a simple song and is continually recurring it. The Sparrow singer has a more significant repertoire, Wrens have hundreds of songs, and American mockingbirds can sing their melodies for hours. However, over 2000 songs have been attributed to a Brown mockingbird. It can be rightly said that nightingales, mockingbirds, chaffinches, robins, skylarks, whitethroat birds, the Cardinals, beautiful lyrebirds, larks and many others from all over the earth, have a voice of virtuoso performers.
Apart from the primary songs of morning and evening choirs, there are others. Of particular interest are the “whispers” of the song, dampened by performing the passages of the basic melodies, with variations and additions, and heard only in a radius of a few meters. Often sang while birds sit while nesting eggs or hidden in the secrecy of dense chicory, these muted songs performed by males and females may be their silent pleasure.
Couples of many bird species sing in duets. Together, they can sing the same or different songs, or alternately sing different parts of the same song. They do it so perfectly that it sounds like only one bird sings. The interval in the interruption when one stops and the other starts, measured in milliseconds. Just if someone stands between them, he can be sure that there are two singers, not one. In South America, musical wrens are considered to be exceptional singers in duets, described as the singers of the most beautiful songs heard in the forests.
Voice imitation is a favorite habit of many species. Ornithologists say this is an inexplicable phenomenon and fail to see any purpose, though one researcher has indicated that birds are merely playing. The Mockingbird in North America stands out. His scientific name Mimus polyglottos means “multilingual imitator.” One mockingbird allegedly copied the singing of 55 different bird species in only one hour.
But the American mockingbird is not the only one to hold the right to imitate. In Australia, the beautiful lyrebird has “one of the most powerful and the most melodious of all bird songs.” She adds to her song those of almost every species that lives nearby. Robert Burton, in his book “Bird Behavior,” reports on the imitation of bluebirds, warblers, and canaries. Australian bluebirds “were captured” to imitate cats, dogs, wood-cutting axes, automotive sirens, and the buzz of wire fences, as well as many bird species.
The sound spectrum analysis revealed that probably the entire repertoire of the European warbler is perhaps made of imitation. The spectrogram didn’t only show the songs of almost a hundred bird species in Europe, but also more than a hundred African species that the warbler may have heard at her winter residence in Africa.
The Canaries “don’t make differences and will copy anything, which made them so famous as cage birds. It is interesting that the canary learns a song from the moment he is still in the egg and continues throughout his life. One of the interesting things about them is that in the 19th century, miners were carrying them to the mine, where they served as “live sensors.”
Certain tropical birds can compose and perform duets. It seems that the spouses at the time of mating will hold rehearsals, practicing until they create the original composition consisting of the phrases they sing alternately, singing to each other. The couple sings with such precision that this sounds like an everlasting song singed by only one bird to an untrained ear. Each partner can sing each piece or, in the absence of the partner, sing the whole song. This unique ability helps birds in dense rain forests to locate and identify their partner.
Different types of birds have specific preferences regarding the place they will use for their performances. Some are singing from the ground, some from the peaks of the rooftops, others from the prominent high position on the top of the tree. Birds nesting in open fields often sings while flying over their areas of living.
How they do it remains a secret
The “greatest secret” may not be the question of why they are singing such conceived songs; but how they do it. There are various theories, and even after extensive scientific research, there is no unified consent.
The part of the bird which takes part in sound creation is called a pelvic bone, a resonant chest-like box with flexible flaps that control specific muscles. It is very different in different species, and the most complex form is found in singing birds. It is located at the bottom of the barge and has two separate sources of sound. Each sound source has its nerve, muscle, and membranes, which is why birds are said to have ‘two voices.’ By increasing the tension of the muscles on the layers and changing the air pressure, the birds change the strength as well as the height of the voice. Birds with a large number of singing muscles have the highest potential for creating different complex songs or calls. The most versatile of these feathery singers have seven to nine pairs of these muscles.
Robert Burton in his book “Bird Behavior” shows why the singing skills of birds are beyond our understanding: “Such a sound creation reaches its culmination in species such as reed warblers who are simultaneously singing two melodies with different sounds coming from each half of his throat. At one point in his singing, this singing bird suddenly creates four different sounds, but it is not known how he performed art. ”