Program Information — Series 3 & 4
Click on a program in the right-hand column to see a description and program notes.

Beak and Singing

The beak of a bird is part of its airway. By altering the opening of the beak, a bird alters the shape of the airway and modifies the sounds it sings.

You can get a sense of the importance of the shape of the airway by noticing how different a trumpeted length of PVC pipe sounds if a flared bell is attached to its end: it's a sweeter, more musical, somewhat higher sound.

Large billed birds with long necks may get some of the effect of a flared bell by opening their beaks. But for most smaller birds, this effect is small. But there are lots of ways a bird can shape the airway to modify the sound made in the syrinx (voicebox). These don't rely on the beak being large enough to produce the effect of a flared bell.

As we'll see in the next program, the way we humans shape our airways is absolutely crucial to our communication: among other effects, airway shaping is what lets us differentiate vowel sounds.

Chris Tenney recorded the house finch and the northern mockingbird in Salinas.

I found this recordings of the sandhill crane on the International Cranes Foundation website.

The mourning dove recording is from the CD collection Bird Songs of California produced by the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

The tones of the lengths of PVC pipe (with and without a flaring bell) are from the brass acoustics page of Joe Wolfe's wonderful music acoustics website at The University of New South Wales.

Series 3
Egg Calls
Chick ID Calls
Chicken Calls
Vocal Tract
Syrinx Styles
Airway Model
Airway Overtones
Coiled Trachea
Beak & Airway
Vowels & Airway
Tuvan Throat Singing

Series 4
Size & Sound
Forest Soundscape
Grassland Soundscape
Bird Hearing
Local Dialects
Regional Dialects
Drumming - Woodpeckers Etc.
Bird Tongues
Bird Brains & Singing
Song Duels?
Dawn Chorus
Finale: Song Sparrow