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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?

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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

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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.


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Authors

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.

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