“It is not only fine feathers that make fine birds.” - Aesop
Birds can make us happier, that’s a fact. According to Joel Methorst at the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre, iDiv, and Goethe University Frankfurt, an increase in the number of birds around us would make us happier than increased wages.
Why not head into your garden or the park and listen to the birds singing?
Which Birds Can Sing?
Almost every bird can sing, but this isn’t true of the stork, which clacks its beak instead. However, most other birds will express themselves with melodic tweets and chirps.
On the other hand, birdsong isn’t innate in birds just like language isn’t innate in babies. Birds have to learn how to sing by imitating their parents. This learning phase can take several months and involves several stages of learning.
Firstly, chicks start by making less structured sounds. These sounds are essential for getting their point across while they learn to make more complex sounds.
Bit by bit, they learn to better imitate their parents and can even pick up variations in their chirping according to their geographical location. This means that, in a way, birds have accents and dialects.
In some cases, this means birds of the same species won’t understand one another. For birds, singing is a learning process.
Some of the most famous singing birds include:
These birds are probably the most famous for their singing and some birds, such as the thrush, are famous for the musicality of their birdsong and how they can produce melodic birdsong so varied that they can often be confused for other birds.
Even domesticated birds, including the canary, can sing and there are even canary singing competitions!
The Asian koel and the rose-breasted grosbeak are also famous for their birdsong, but you’re unlikely to find them in the UK! The rest, however, can be found in the British Isles.
Why Can Birds Sing?
Birds don’t have a voice box like people do but instead have a vocal organ known as the syrinx, a small lump at the base of the trachea. The syrinx allows the birds to make their melodic tweets and chirps.
There are two fine membranes attached to the syrinx that allows the birds to make two sounds at once.
Thanks to this, birds can communicate with one another and some even have very sophisticated communication systems. Birdsong can reach up to 110 decibels, which is as loud as a car horn! This is very useful for birds because they need to be heard across a large distance.
After all, other birds won’t always be close to them and, for birds that flock, it can make it much easier to find one another. Different birds have also adapted to their environment with some species using an echo to project their song even further.
Being heard is essential for a bird’s survival. Singing, especially for males, can be used to mark territory. They can also use it to defend their nest. Singing can also be used to find a partner during mating season and many species use their singing to attract females and ensure their survival.
Singing can also be used to warn others of danger by alerting members of their flock and other birds thus saving them from predators and risks.
Singing is also a way for birds to communicate amongst themselves and forge bonds. Many birds live together in a flock, and being able to recognise one another can also help when migrating and looking for food sources.
Generally, birds will sing in the morning when temperatures are lower and the environment is quieter and these conditions can also help their song to carry further.
How Can You Recognise Different Birdsong?
Would you like to recognise the different birds that frequent your garden?
You can become an amateur ornithologist by observing nature daily. Make the most of each moment of nature during your day and observe the birds around you.
You can recognise birds by sight and there are plenty of books and guides on how to identify different birds by their shape, plumage, and colouration. Once you’ve found a bird, you can also listen to it singing.
Different birds sing differently in different situations. Just because you hear a song at a certain time of day, that doesn’t mean that you’ll hear it again later. You have to recognise all the different ways each bird can sing.
There are plenty of YouTube videos on identifying birdsong and learning this way can be easier than in the field as there are often different birds singing at the same time. On the other hand, a recording of birdsong is never as good as the real thing! Sometimes you just need to get out there!
There are apps like BirdNET that can be used to identify birds by sound. You just have to record the birdsong in the app and the app will do the rest. This can help you learn what different birds sound like.
How to Imitate Bird Song
Once you’ve learnt how different birds sound, you can start learning to imitate them. Remember that this skill can take a lot of hard work, but it’s not impossible.
Start by focusing on just one bird. Don't start by imitating every bird in your garden right at the start as you’ll end up imitating each of them poorly. Choose one, like the robin, and focus on its song. Make a note of what its song is like as these notes can help you when you attempt to imitate them. Recordings can also be useful.
From there, you need to practise positioning your tongue, shaping your mouth, and controlling your breathing to perfectly imitate it. To help, you can always take lessons in it. Some people can imitate birdsong and offer courses to those wanting to learn. You can also find books and videos on recognising birdsong and imitating it.
There are also tools like a duck call. While usually wooden, these tools are designed to imitate a certain bird call, which means that you can only use them for specific birds, usually ducks.
These have been used for hunting, but nowadays, these tools can be used to easily communicate with birds. Once you’ve mastered this tool, you can converse with birds.
Just don’t bother them. Try it out once and see how the birds react. Let them come to you and don’t enter their territory.
The duck call can be used by adults and children alike. They’re a lot of fun.
If you'd like to learn more about birds, their calls, imitating them, or even singing, consider getting in touch with a private tutor through the Superprof website. There are tutors offering lessons in a huge variety of subjects and skills across the country and worldwide, either one on one, online, or in groups. Each type of tutoring comes with advantages and disadvantages so think about why you want to learn and how you prefer to learn.
For example, face-to-face tutorials are good if you want to learn quickly and effectively as you'll be the only student in the class and all the tutor's time is spent focusing on you. They can also spend time outside of your lessons adapting the lessons and resources to you and what you want to learn. Of course, this tends to make one-on-one tutoring more expensive than the other types available, but it's often the most cost-effective way to learn, too!
Group tutoring is an excellent option for those on a budget or those looking to make new friends with shared interests. As the cost of the tutor's time and experience is shared between all the students in the class, this type of tutoring is usually cheaper per student per hour.
If you can't find any suitable or available tutors in your local area, you can always broaden your search to include tutors all over the country and around the world. Thanks to the wonders of technology, you can be taught via webcam from tutors almost anywhere in the world and since they don't have to travel to their students and have fewer overheads, they tend to charge less per hour than their face-to-face counterparts.
Remember that a lot of the tutors on the Superprof website will offer the first hour or session for free. You can use these sessions to try out a few different tutors before deciding on the one that's right for you, your budget, and what you'd like to learn. Of course, it's always a good idea to find tutors that you're genuinely interested in before getting in touch rather than trying a random bunch of free lessons.
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