A male Blackbird (Turdus merula) singing.
Bogense havn, Funen, Denmark.
Blackbird song recorded at Lille, France
Bird vocalization includes both bird calls
and bird songs. In non-technical use, bird
songs are the bird sounds that are melodious
to the human ear. In ornithology, bird ’songs’
are often distinguished from shorter sounds,
which may be termed ’calls’.
The distinction between songs and calls is
based upon inflection, length, and context.
Songs are longer and more complex and are
associated with courtship and mating, while
calls tend to serve such functions as alarms
or keeping members of a flock in contact.
Other authorities such as Howell and Webb
(1995) make the distinction based on func-
tion, so that short vocalisations such as those
of pigeons and even non-vocal sounds such as
the drumming of woodpeckers and the "win-
nowing" of snipes’ wings in display flight are
considered songs. Still others require song
to have syllabic diversity and temporal regu-
larity akin to the repetitive and transformat-
ive patterns which define music.
Bird song is best developed in the order
Passeriformes. Most song is emitted by male
rather than female birds. Song is usually de-
livered from prominent perches although
some species may sing when flying. Some
groups are nearly voiceless, producing only
percussive and rhythmic sounds, such as the
storks, which clatter their bills. In some man-
akins (Pipridae), the males have evolved sev-
eral mechanisms for mechanical sound pro-
duction, including mechanisms for stridula-
tion not unlike those found in some insects.
The production of sounds by mechanical
means as opposed to the use of the syrinx has
been termed variously instrumental music by
Charles Darwin, mechanical sounds and
more recently sonation. The term sonate
has been defined as the act of producing non-
vocal sounds that are intentionally modulated
communicative signals, produced using non-
syringeal structures such as the bill, wings,
tail, feet and body feathers.[