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Voices and Vocabularies - Exquisite Thrush Songs

Unique voice boxes make lovely music!

Some believe the song of the Wood Thrush to be the most beautiful bird song in North America. Others select the song of the Hermit Thrush. Still others name the singing of the Swainson’s Thrush. How do thrushes like this Veery create such fine music? The answer is that the birds have a double voice box, unique to them, called the syrinx. A fine singer like a thrush can voice notes independently and simultaneously from each half of its syrinx, notes which blend brilliantly as ethereal, harmonious tones.

Full Transcript

Transcript: 

BirdNote® 

Voices & Vocabularies: Exquisite Thrush Songs 

Written by Bob Sundstrom

This is BirdNote.

[Wood Thrush song]

Some believe the song of the Wood Thrush to be the most beautiful bird song in North America. [Wood Thrush song] 

Others select the song of the Hermit Thrush. [Hermit Thrush song;] 

Still others name the singing of the Swainson’s Thrush. [Swainson’s Thrush]

So how do thrushes create such fine music? The answer is that the birds have a double voice box. Bird song emanates from a complex structure, unique to birds, called the syrinx. Syrinx is also the Greek word for the musical instrument we call panpipes, which have multiple pipes. It’s a fitting name for this essential part of a bird’s vocal anatomy. Because, like panpipes, birds have two separate pipes to sing with. A fine singer like a thrush can voice notes independently and simultaneously from each half of its syrinx, notes which blend brilliantly as ethereal, harmonious tones. [Hermit Thrush song] 

Fortunately for us, the results are lovely and haunting. [Wood Thrush song] 

###

Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Song of the Wood Thrush [176144] recorded by G.A. Keller; song of Hermit Thrush [111136] by T.G. Sander; song of the Swainson’s Thrush [133353] recorded by G.A. Keller. 
Ambient recorded by C. Peterson M III T 48.
BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2015 Tune In to Nature.org  June 2018  Narrator: Michael Stein

ID# thrush-02-2013-06-12 thrush-02  

      

Remarkable animation of singing from each bronchus separately.  http://www.indiana.edu/~songbird/multi/songproduction_index.html 

Nice essay on wonders of thrush song: http://www.massaudubon.org/sanctuary/features.php?id=50

More good material, including recent work on use of structures other than syrinx that may be essential in bird song http://people.eku.edu/ritchisong/birdcommunication.html

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