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

Types of Syrinx

True songbirds have y-shaped dual voiceboxes. Most are small birds. The common raven is the largest.

Not all small birds are songbirds, however. The flycatchers (like the black phoebe and the olive-sided flycatcher) are closely related to true songbirds (they're all part of the order Passeriformes) and some have lovely songs, but they generally have simpler syrinxes with fewer muscle pairs to control sound production.

Many non-songbirds have very simple syrinxes. Though still deep in the breast, these birds have single syrinxes just above where the two branches of the airway coming from the lungs join. Their syrinxes may have only two pairs of external muscles and no internal muscles at all.

While a simple syrinx often goes along with simpler, innate songs, this is only a general rule and has major exceptions. African gray parrots are a common pet bird that can be taught to mimic human speech very accurately. They do this with a simple syrinx. This shouldn't surprise us, since the human larynx would not rank as a very complex voicebox in the bird world. What lets these gray parrots mimic human speech is a fleshy tongue that is uncommon in the bird world.

Chris Tenney recorded the hermit thrush and the olive-sided flycatcher in the Sierra Nevadas.

The sounds of the black phoebe, the common raven, and the sandhill crane are all from the CD collection Bird Songs of California produced by the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

Many owners of African gray parrots have recorded their birds' mimicry and shared them on the web. The two examples I use here are from a bird named Ezra and can be found on the Ezra the Office Parrot website.

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