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What the Pacific Wren Hears

A long story in a short song!
© Julio Mulero View Large

What does the Pacific Wren hear in a song? It's a long story. What we hear as a blur of sound, the bird hears as a precise sequence of sounds, the visual equivalent of seeing a movie as a series of still pictures. That birds can hear the fine structure of song so acutely allows them to convey much information in a short sound. Pacific Wrens are found most often in closed-canopy conifer forests, nesting in cavities, usually within six feet of the ground.

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Full Transcript


What the Pacific Wren Hears
Written by Todd Peterson

Listen carefully to the song of the Pacific Wren. [Song of the Pacific Wren]

What we hear as a blur of sound, the Pacific Wren hears as a precise sequence of sounds.  That birds can hear so acutely the fine structure of song allows them to convey much information in a short sound. “This is probably why," naturalist Rosemary Jellis writes, "even the most extensive bird songs seem so brief to us. 

Let's listen again, but this time with the song slowed down to one-quarter speed. [Song of the Pacific Wren at 1/4 speed]

Pacific Wrens may hear the song of other Pacific Wrens this way, enabling them to imitate each other. 

The same would be true for Winter Wrens of the eastern states and Eurasian Wrens.

Whatever the species, they remind us that creatures we share the world with, read and respond to nature in ways we sometimes cannot see or hear.

For BirdNote, I'm Mary McCann. 


Song of the Pacific Wren provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Recorded by G.A. Keller.
BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2014 Tune In to   October 2014/2017/2019   Narrator: Mary McCann

ID#  PAWR-01-2012-10-21 (was 052305WIWR)    PAWR-01

Bird Sounds and Their Meaning, by Rosemary Jellis, Cornell University Press, 1977.

Sights & Sounds

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