Parker County Today May 2018 - Page 90

Why Do Birds Sing? a mate will sing from one of the highest or most conspic- uous perches available. This favorite spot may be used repeatedly. On the other hand, some birds – such as larks, Bobolinks, and buntings – sing while flying. And while birds usually do not sing around their nests, a few may sing a quiet “whisper song that can be heard for only a few yards. BY THE WILD BIRD CENTER, WEATHERFORD, TX In the final analysis, different birds sing different songs, but they usually sing for the same reasons. And who knows, some of these reasons might be that they are well fed, stress free, and what we would anthropomorphically describe as “happy!” American Goldfinch-Male Rose-breasted Grosbeak O ne reason we feed wild birds around our homes is that we presume they appreciate a little help from their friends. Another reason is that we simply enjoy having them around. We like watching their antics, seeing their colors and listening to them. Birds generally sing more in the early morning and late afternoon. While singing behavior varies among species, most vocalizations take place during the breed- A singing bird creates musical sounds using its syrinx. This organ is a kind of double voice box at the bottom of the bird’s windpipe. Where the windpipe branches into the bird’s lungs, two sets of membranes and muscles vibrate at high frequencies as air is exhaled. In fact, while singing, a bird can alternate exhaling between its lungs and thereby sing in harmony with itself! Usually a male that is defending a territory or attracting 88 Songbirds account for nearly 60% of the world’s approxi- mately 9,600 different species and about 40 percent of the more than 900 avian species found in North America. For the most part, only the males “sing” – a consis- tently repeated pattern of tones. The females of a few species, including Northern Cardinals and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, occasionally break into song. The songs of birds are learned, not inherited. If a White- crowned Sparrow grew up with only Song Sparrows around, it would learn Song Sparrow songs. Fledgling birds first develop a “subsong,” that matures into an adult primary song in about a year. Although Chipping Sparrows have only one basic song, Song Sparrows may have ten, some wrens may have more than 100, and – as many of you well know – Mockingbirds seem to have a repertoire of a couple hundred songs that are voiced endlessly. Each bird species is capable of making a variety of sounds that it uses to communicate with other birds. These sounds are songs, which usually are long and complex, and calls, which are usually short and simple. By encouraging birds to visit our yards, we are more liable to hear all their vocalizations. ing season. Lags occur during the short mating period and when the young are being cared for. Singing usually stops when the nesting period is over. 89