Different sounds travel better in different environments. The explosive notes of a Marsh Wren carry well through thick vegetation. A Common Yellowthroat's choppy, repetitive song rattles right through a stand of cattails. An Olive-sided Flycatcher sings from atop a tall tree, its song carrying at least half a mile through the open air. High-pitched sounds have shorter wavelengths and are more easily stopped by solid objects, so they are better sung from the tree-tops. Explosive, low-pitched songs bounce better past solid obstacles.
And this Lapland Longspur, with neither tall trees nor dense shrubs to sing from? It often takes flight or sits atop a tussock and sings across the Arctic tundra.
This show brought to you by the Bobolink Foundation.
Bird Songs Reflect the Environment
Written by Bob Sundstrom
This is BirdNote.
[A western U.S. Marsh Wren song]
To our ears, the song of a Marsh Wren may not be the most pleasing. But in a dense habitat of cattails, it’s remarkably effective. [Continue the Marsh Wren] The ratchety, low-pitched, explosive notes – like from a tiny machine gun – carry well through the thick vegetation. Similarly, the wren’s next-door neighbor, the Common Yellowthroat, sings a choppy, repetitive song designed to rattle right through a stand of cattails. [Common Yellowthroat song]
Along the edge of the same marsh, an Olive-sided Flycatcher sings, perched atop a tall tree. [Olive-sided Flycatcher] Its high-pitched, whistled song carries at least half a mile through the open air. Sharp, clear notes are ideal for a tree-top singer.
Different sounds travel better in different environments. High-pitched sounds have shorter wave-lengths and are more easily stopped by solid objects – so they are better sung from the tree tops. [Olive-sided Flycatcher] Explosive, low-pitched songs bounce better past solid obstacles, whether tree trunks or dense cattails. [Marsh Wren song] And so much depends on the birds getting their message across.
What about birds that have neither tall trees nor dense shrubs to sing from, like the Lapland Longspur? [Lapland Longspur song] The longspur often takes flight to sing, casting its gentle song into the air as it glides above the Arctic tundra.
[Lapland Longspur song]
Today’s show brought to you by The Bobolink Foundation. For BirdNote, I’m Michael Stein.
Sounds of the birds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Marsh Wren  recorded by K.J. Colver; Common Yellowthroat  recorded W.L. Hershberger; Olive-sided Flycatcher  recorded by T.G. Sander; Lapland Longspur  recorded by G. Vyn.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2014 Tune In to Nature.org May 2017/2019 Narrator: Michael Stein