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Vocal Communication

Birds produce a variety sounds to communicate with flock members, mates (or potential mates), neighbors, & family members. These sounds vary from short, simple call notes (and short, simple songs like those of Henslow's Sparrows) . . .


Henslow's Sparrow

. . . to surprisingly long, complex songs (e.g., the Superb Lyrebird).

Superb Lyrebird

Sometimes birds generate sounds by using substrates (like woodpeckers) or their wings (like Ruffed Grouse) or special feathers (like American Woodcock) or special wings (like manakins).

Neat video of a Red-capped Manakin (Pipra mentalis) using its wings to generate sound.

Male Anna's Hummingbirds use their tail feathers to generate sound. 

Most sounds, however, are produced by the avian vocal organ, the syrinx.

House Wren singing

Common Loon calling

Cross-section through an avian syrinx
Drawing of an avian syrinx

The syrinx is located at the point where the trachea branches into the two primary bronchi. According to one model of syrinx function, sound is generated when: