Science Focus - the home of BBC Science Focus Magazine
How does a small bird such as a robin produce such a loud sound? © iStock

How does a small bird such as a robin produce such a loud sound?

Subscribe to BBC Science Focus Magazine and get 6 issues for just £9.99

They might not be as loud as an AC/DC concert, but birds have a special trick under their wings to get heard.

Asked by: Roger Collison, Holmfirth


Male birds use their songs to advertise for mates and to warn rival males away from the territory they control. Natural selection favours birds that can broadcast over a wider area and so they have evolved powerful diaphragm muscles.

But they use other strategies to make themselves heard as well. Research at the University of St Andrews has found that as the background noise from traffic gets louder, birds sing at higher frequencies, which aren’t affected so much by the low rumble of passing lorries. And robins in cities sing more at night time too, to avoid the rush hour noise.


Subscribe to BBC Focus magazine for fascinating new Q&As every month and follow @sciencefocusQA on Twitter for your daily dose of fun science facts.


luis villazon
Luis VillazonQ&A expert

Luis trained as a zoologist, but now works as a science and technology educator. In his spare time he builds 3D-printed robots, in the hope that he will be spared when the revolution inevitably comes.


Sponsored content