Mechanisms of song production in the Australian magpie

Roderick A. Suthers, J. Martin Wild, Gisela Kaplan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Australian magpies (Gymnorhina tibicen) are notable for their vocal prowess. We investigated the syringeal and respiratory dynamics of vocalization by two 6-month-old males, whose songs had a number of adult features. There was no strong lateral syringeal dominance and unilateral phonation was most often achieved by closing the syringeal valve on the contralateral side of the syrinx. Unlike other songbirds studied, magpies sometimes used an alternative syringeal motor pattern during unilateral phonation in which both sides of the syrinx are partially adducted and open to airflow. Also, in contrast to most other songbirds, the higher fundamental frequency during two-voice syllables was usually generated on the left side of the syrinx. Amplitude modulation, a prominent feature of magpie song, was produced by linear or nonlinear interactions between different frequencies which may originate either on opposite sides of the syrinx or on the same side. Pulse tones, similar to vocal fry in human speech, were present in some calls. Unlike small songbirds, the fundamental of the modal frequency can be as low as that of the pulse tone, suggesting that large birds may have evolved pulse tones to increase acoustic diversity, rather than decrease the fundamental frequency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)45-59
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Comparative Physiology A: Neuroethology, Sensory, Neural, and Behavioral Physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2011


  • Birdsong
  • Lateralization
  • Nonlinear
  • Pulse tone
  • Syrinx

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Mechanisms of song production in the Australian magpie'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this