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Voices and Vocabularies - Songs Suit Surroundings

It's all about being heard!

When a Canyon Wren sings, the brilliance of its sweet music can stop you in your tracks. But when its cousin, the Marsh Wren (seen here), sings, you may reach for your earplugs. Why do two closely related birds sing such contrasting songs? In the wren’s world, where song is essential to attracting mates and repelling rivals, it’s all about being heard. 

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Transcript: 

BirdNote®  

Voices and Vocabularies - Songs Suit Surroundings

Written by Bob Sundstrom

This is BirdNote.

[Canyon Wren song]

When a Canyon Wren sings, the brilliance of its descending notes can stop you right in your tracks. [Canyon Wren song] But when its cousin, the Marsh Wren, sings, you may reach for your earplugs. [Western Marsh Wren song]

Why do two closely related birds sing such contrasting songs: one sweetly musical, [Canyon Wren song] one harsh, jarring, and repetitive? [Western Marsh Wren song]

The answer lies in where they sing. For a song to be effective – for it to be heard loudly and clearly by others of its species – the song must carry well in the bird’s habitat. The Canyon Wren inhabits canyons and cliffs, a domain of hard stone. Its silvery notes bounce wonderfully across its stony realm.  

[Canyon Wren song]

In contrast, Marsh Wrens [in background - Western Marsh Wren song] sing from deep within dense reeds and cattails. Their songs are loud and low pitched, flurries of short, hard notes – songs evolved to power through a mass of vegetation. 

[Western Marsh Wren song]

[Canyon Wren song softly in background] We humans may find one wren song more pleasing to the ear than the other. But in the wren’s world, where song is essential to attracting mates and repelling rivals, it’s all about being heard. 

 [Western Marsh Wren song]

Today’s show brought to you by the Bobolink Foundation. 

###

Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Song of Canyon Wren [105214] recorded by G.A. Keller; song of (Western) Marsh Wren [44819] recorded by K. Colver.

Marsh ambient from 44819.  Canyon ambient from 105214.

BirdNote's theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.

Producer: John Kessler

Executive Producer: Chris Peterson

© 2013 Tune In to Nature.org        April 2013  Narrator: Michael Stein

ID# sound-16-2013-04-08          sound-16

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