Mechanisms of frequency and amplitude modulation in ring dove song

Gabriël J.L. Beckers, Roderick A. Suthers, Carel Ten Cate

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

49 Scopus citations


Birdsong assumes its complex and specific forms by the modulation of phonation in frequency and time domains. The organization of control mechanisms and intrinsic properties causing such modulation have been studied in songbirds but much less so in non-songbirds, the songs of which are often regarded as relatively simple. We examined mechanisms of frequency and amplitude modulation of phonation in ring doves Streptopelia risoria, which are non-songbirds. Spontaneous coo vocalizations were recorded together with concurrent pressure patterns in two different air sacs and air flow rate in the trachea. The results show that amplitude modulation is the result of the cyclic opening and closure of a valve instead of fluctuations in driving pressure, as is the current explanation. Frequency modulation is more complex than previously recognized and consists of gradual, continuous time-frequency patterns, punctuated by instantaneous frequency jumps. Gradual frequency modulation patterns correspond to pressure variation in the interclavicular air sac but not to pressure variation in the cranial thoracic air sac or air flow rate variation in the trachea. The cause of abrupt jumps in frequency has not been identified but can be explained on the basis of intrinsic properties of the vocal organ. Air sac pressure variation as a mechanism for frequency modulation contrasts with the specialized syringeal musculature of songbirds and may explain why the fundamental frequency in non-songbird vocalizations is generally modulated within a limited frequency range.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1833-1843
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 2003


  • Air sac pressure
  • Amplitude modulation
  • Birdsong
  • Frequency
  • Non-songbird
  • Phonation
  • Ring dove
  • Streptopelia risoria

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Mechanisms of frequency and amplitude modulation in ring dove song'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this