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How Birds Got Their Groove
How Birds Got Their Groove
NATURE PUTS EVERY CHIRP in its proper place. Avian sounds— flutish trills, alarmlike buzzes, and one-note squawks alike— are immediately absorbed, reflected, and scattered by everything in a bird’s habitat.

Nearby leaves or branches, canyon walls, and even the wind influence notes, so over time, species tailor songs to suit those surroundings. Some minimize echoes by putting more space between notes, while others use low frequencies that travel farther. Here’s how some birds have tweaked their waveforms.

Wood thrush

This three-part call often consists of soft, low-pitched phrases flourished with a final, elaborate trill—a complex tune compared with other thrushes. The intricacy makes the tune susceptible to warping when it hits vegetation, so males manage by singing from the lower canopy or midstory of forests, where there’s less obstruction.

Human mnemonic: ra-vi-o-li (flutelike) oo-duh-lay-oh or oodle-drrrr

Northern cardinal

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Winter 2019