Mimicking Bird Songs

December 17, 2010 by  
Filed under Birding Tips

Each bird species has its own unique sound and song, and for centuries human hunters have been devising whistles or perfecting their own whistling techniques to mimic the calls of birds. But until recently, this art was not fool proof. Now, using a rubber tube, physicists have been able to create device that imitates bird calls and, when played back, is almost the exact reproduction of the original bird call. Their simple device has proven to be a breakthrough in the mimicking of bird calls and songs, and is still being researched as they wish to improve on their device.

Different species of birds have calls that are exclusive to that species and which young birds learn from their parents. By studying the physics of bird calls and the vocal tract of birds, physicists from Harvard University, located in Massachusetts, have been able to create a simple controller to mimic certain bird calls. The rubber tube that is used is created to resemble the vocal tract of the specific bird. Then, with the assistance of a linear motor, pressure is put on the tube to resemble the contracting of the muscles, and together with the airflow produced, the researchers have been able to mimic the songs of birds. The device can be used to mimic a variety of bird calls and the patterns created by the device are as harmonious as those of real birds. Many scientists have suggested that young birds learning bird calls has a lot to do with neurological shifts, as the bird ages, but graduate student Aryesh Mukherjee from the Mahadevan Laboratory believes that the secrets to bird calls lay in the vocal tracts of each bird.

Other avenues of studying bird calls and how to mimic them are also being pursued, and Shreyas Mandre is in charge of creating digital bird calls. Working within the laboratory, this researcher is making use of mathematical models that are also very close to the real bird calls. But it is believed that with more research and time, the art or mimicking bird calls can be perfected.

Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos)

February 9, 2009 by  
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The Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) is a songbird that measures nine inches in length, has a gray coloring to its head and upper body parts and a white belly. It has a long black tail that has white feathers to the outside, a white patch on its wings that is clearly seen during flight and white plumage on its wing bars. The Northern Mocking Bird has black legs and a very slender bill. It is generally, naturally, found in Florida, the Gulf Coast and in Texas. Mockingbirds are also found in San Francisco, Oregon, Hawaii, Canada and in the East. Most of these populations have been formed due to the release of caged birds, and due to human destruction of habitat the Mockingbird has found other regions to survive in.

The near extinction of the Northern Mockingbird in areas such as St Louis and Philadelphia was caused by the market for caged Mockingbirds in the 18th and 19th century. These amazing little birds were captured for their vocal talents, and it is now known that the Northern Mockingbird is capable of 200 different songs, sounds and noises. It can mimic other birds, make amphibian sounds and even copy the noises that are made by insects. The Northern Mockingbird is also known as the American Nightingale. The diet of the Northern Mockingbird can vary with the seasons but generally incorporates wild fruits such as prickly pears, blackberries, holly, poison ivy and pokeberry. They will also live close to cultivated areas to feed on grapes and other fruits that are farmed. Mockingbirds will feed on arthropods and insects through the year, but favor these food sources mostly during breeding season.

Northern Mockingbirds mate for life, but on the odd occasion they will separate during the winter months to establish a winter territory. Territories are established surrounding a food source or for breeding. Both the male and female will viciously defend their territories, as they need to protect themselves from other birds that also feed on fruit. During breeding season, these little songbirds show no fear, and will dive at any intruders, animal or human.

Northern Mockingbirds can be heard singing throughout the day and most of the year. Single males are known to sing into the night, and males tend to sing louder than the females, with the females only singing loudly when the male has left the territory. In breeding season, nests are constructed from roots, grasses, leaves and twigs, and are built in trees or shrubs. The female can lay two to six eggs that are white in color and speckled with reddish brown. The incubation period of twelve to thirteen days is attended to by the female, after which both parents will attend to the feeding of the hatched chicks. Northern Mockingbird chicks are ready to fledge the nest within twelve days.

The Bane of Brood Parasites

December 17, 2007 by  
Filed under Features

When we hear the word “parasites”, most of us would assume it is referring to an organism that feeds off another. In brood parasites, in the avian world, it works a little differently. To put in laymen’s terms, it is when one bird species lays their eggs in a different species‘ nest, so that the parasite species do not have to take care of their young. Over the years, host bird species became wise to the brood parasites, but as a parasite does not give up that easily, the brood parasites have come up with various devious plans to fool the hosts.

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The Marvelous Mimicry of the Lyrebird

September 10, 2007 by  
Filed under Features

There are two species of the ground-dwelling Australian Lyrebird: the Superb Lyrebird (Menura novaehollandiae) and the Albert’s Lyrebird (Menura alberti). The Superb Lyrebird is the larger of the two species and is found in the wet forest areas of New South Wales and Victoria, as well as in Tasmania where is was introduced by man in the 19th century. The Albert’s Lyrebird is found exclusively in a small area of rainforest in Southern Queensland. Albert’s Lyrebird was named in honor of Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert.

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Teaching Pet Birds to Talk

May 7, 2007 by  
Filed under Pet Birds

If you have ever thought about owning a parrot, you most likely thought about what you would teach it to say. Birds which are capable of mimicking human speech not only provide hours of entertainment, but make for an interesting conversation piece and some hilarious moments with family and friends.

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