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vocalization

Hold the Phone

Many birds are difficult to see, such as the Sora. Its plumage blends perfectly with the dense marsh grass where it lives. So how can we get a good look at this denizen of the undergrowth? One way is to play a bird-call app on a mobile device. But using an app requires sensitivity. Because stress... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

Birdsong, Music, and Neuroscience

Brain imaging studies have shown that hearing enjoyable music “lights up” the mesolimbic reward pathway in the human brain. But how does a bird experience a song from its own species? Scientists at Emory University found a similar pattern in the sparrow’s brain. Female White-throated Sparrows,... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  sound, vocalization

Bluethroat

One of the most remarkable singers on the European continent is the Bluethroat. Often singing while fluttering aloft, Bluethroats mix their own song elements with imitations of just about every bird within hearing distance. They'll even try their luck with crickets, tree frogs, and train whistles... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

Voices and Vocabularies - Songs Long and Short

When a Sage Thrasher, perched on a clump of sagebrush, tips its head back to sing, the notes rush forth. They often sing non-stop for at least two minutes. In stark comparison, the song of this Brewer’s Blackbird lasts barely a second. And the Henslow’s Sparrow values brevity even more. But... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

Singer's Brain Changes with the Seasons

In higher animals, the brain is like a BMW — amazing engineering, but expensive to run. In a human, the brain uses about 10 times more energy than other organs. A bird's system is exquisitely attuned to this expense. Several species, including Black-capped Chickadees, have adapted in a... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science, vocalization

Speech and Birdsong - The Genetics of Vocal Learning

Some birds are born with the ability to sing. Others learn to sing while they're young — just like humans, who must learn to speak. It turns out that vocal learning in songbirds and humans may have more in common than anyone suspected. Recent DNA research reveals that songbirds and humans share a... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  science, vocalization

Birds That Whistle

Many bird songs are rich and complex, difficult to remember, and nearly impossible to imitate. Some species' songs, however, sound as if they could have been whistled by a human. These simpler, pure-noted songs are some of the most familiar and easy to remember. These songs -- including the "pee... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  birdwatching by ear, vocalization

Why Some Birds Sing in the Winter

By late January, some resident birds, such as the Northern Mockingbird, are beginning their spring singing. When you step outside on a particularly sunny day this winter, a Fox Sparrow like the one pictured here may be warming up for the coming spring. And as far north as British Columbia,... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

Nighttime Flights of Songbirds

Some cloudless night in September, when the air is clear, you may see birds flying across the yellow face of the moon! September is peak migration time for millions of songbirds heading south from North America to more tropical latitudes. Nocturnal migrants of the same species, such as orioles,... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  migration, vocalization

Night Voices of Summer

At the close of a summer day, the songbirds go silent. As if on cue, the birds of the night make their voices known. In an Eastern woodland, the eerie trills and whinnies of an Eastern Screech-Owl are among the first sounds of the night. Meanwhile, as night falls west of the Rockies, the Western... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  birdwatching by ear, sound, vocalization

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