How birds sing and why it matters

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

38 Scopus citations


Songbirds have both an esthetic and a scientific impact on our lives. Birdsong adds beauty and vitality to our environment. The chapter is about how birdsong is produced. How do birds generate such a variety of sounds and what vocal gymnastics are required to produce them? The vocal system is the interface between the bird's brain and his song. Knowing how it functions, and coming to appreciate its limitations as well as its capabilities, is important in understanding vocal communication. Birdsong is the product of the carefully coordinated activity of many different muscles. Some of these are associated with the vocal organ but many belong to other muscle groups such as the respiratory system and the vocal tract. Together they convert nerve impulses from the brain into song. Less is known about the vocal mechanisms of non-songbirds, and they are mentioned only briefly to indicate the variety of avian vocal systems, and to provide a perspective from which to focus on the oscine songbirds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationNature's Music
Subtitle of host publicationThe Science of Birdsong
PublisherElsevier Inc.
Number of pages24
ISBN (Print)9780124730700
StatePublished - Oct 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)

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    Suthers, R. A. (2004). How birds sing and why it matters. In Nature's Music: The Science of Birdsong (pp. 272-295). Elsevier Inc..