For most birds, wings are for flying. But for Rock Pigeons, they’re also for clapping. When the pigeons erupt into flight, some may slap their wings together above their bodies in a “wing clap.” A male Rock Pigeon will also do this when courting. Short-eared Owls, like this one, have evolved wing-clapping, too. When a male displays to a female or attempts to warn off an intruder, he snaps his wings together below his body in a burst of two to six claps per second, producing a sound that sounds remarkably like . . . applause.
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When Birds Clap Their Wings
Written by Bob Sundstrom
This is BirdNote.
For most birds, wings are for flying. For penguins, they’re for swimming. But for Rock Pigeons, they’re also for clapping. Startle a flock of Rock Pigeons, and you’ll hear something like this:
[Rock Pigeon wing claps, http://www.freesound.org/people/dobroide/sounds/24641/]
Wing flaps mixed with the sound of clapping.
When Rock Pigeons erupt into flight, some of them may slap their wings together above their bodies. It’s called a “wing clap.” [Rock Pigeon wing claps, http://www.freesound.org/people/dobroide/sounds/24641/]
A male Rock Pigeon will do this when courting. He’ll posture and coo alongside a female ...
… then fly sharply upward in an aerial display. The brisk series of claps is a shout-out of his courtship plans to the female watching from the rooftop.
Short-eared Owls have evolved wing-clapping, too. These medium-sized owls fly by day on long wings, rounded at the tip. And mostly they fly slowly, gracefully, like enormous moths. But when a male displays to a female or attempts to warn off an intruder, he snaps his wings together below his body in a burst of two to six claps per second, producing a sound that sounds remarkably like…applause. [Short-eared Owl wing clap, http://www.xeno-canto.org/247616, 0.02-.03 repeated]
Today’s show brought to you by the Bobolink Foundation.
For BirdNote, I’m Michael Stein.
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Recorded by [ambient sound Macauley 137503].
XC 283442 recorded by Frank Holzapfel, 247616 recorded by Krzysztof Deoniziak. http://www.xeno-canto.org
BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Sallie Bodie
© 2017 Tune In to Nature.org January 2017 / 2020 / December 2022 Narrator: Michael Stein
ID# wing-clapping-01-2020-1-29 wing-clapping-01