Mimicking Bird Songs

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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.