From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Sonation is the sound produced by birds, using mechanisms other than the syrinx. The term sonate is described as the deliberate production of sounds, not from the throat, but rather from structures such as the bill, wings, tail, feet and body feathers, or by the use of tools.[1]

Examples are the tonal sound produced by the tail-feathers of the Anna's hummingbird Calypte anna,[2] the drumming of the tail-feathers of the African snipe and common snipe, bill-clattering by storks or the deliberate territorial tapping practised by woodpeckers and certain members of the parrot family, such as palm cockatoos which drum on hollow trees using broken-off sticks. The clapper lark's (Mirafra apiata) display flight includes a steep climb with wing rattling.

Barn owls produce a clicking snap to show annoyance or fear. Bustards, floricans and korhaans of the Otididae include foot-stamping in their mating displays.[3] Studies have revealed at least four sonations employed by two manakin genera Manacus and Pipra - wing-against-wing claps carried out above the back, wing-against-body claps, wing-into-air flicks and wing-against-tail feathers.[4] Video footage of male club-winged manakins, Machaeropterus deliciosus, shows them producing sustained harmonics derived from vibrating secondary wing feathers. This mechanism is the avian equivalent of arthropod stridulation.[5]

Adult male red-billed streamertail hummingbirds (Trochilus polytmus) have long tail streamers, but these do not produce their distinctive whirring flight sound. Evidence points to the wings instead - the whirring is synchronised with the wingbeats and video footage shows primary feather eight (P8) bending with each downstroke, creating a gap that produces the fluttering sound.[6]


Many naturalists are developing bird recognition apps, with varying results.[7] Like Shazam, bird identification apps use spectrographic audio analysis to record several seconds of the bird singing, find distinguishing aspects of a bird’s song, and search the database for positive matches. However, because bird calls, unlike pre-recorded music, sound subtly different every time,[8] the technology requires to add a wide variety of bird songs into the database, with multiple variations per species.

Popular bird identification apps include Warblr[9] and Bird Song ID USA.[10][11]


  1. ^ Bostwick, Kimberly S. and Richard O. Prum (2005). "Courting Bird Sings with Stridulating Wing Feathers". Science. 309 (5735): 736. doi:10.1126/science.1111701. PMID 16051789.
  2. ^ Clark CJ, Feo TJ (2008). "The Anna's hummingbird chirps with its tail: a new mechanism of sonation in birds". Proc. Biol. Sci. 275: 955–62. doi:10.1098/rspb.2007.1619. PMC 2599939. PMID 18230592.
  3. ^ Bustards, Floricans and Korhaans
  4. ^ High-speed video analysis of wing-snapping in two manakin clades (Pipridae: Aves - Bostwick & Prum)
  5. ^ Courting Bird Sings with Stridulating Wing Feathers - Bostwick & Prum
  6. ^ Clark CJ. "Fluttering wing feathers produce the flight sounds of male streamertail hummingbirds". Biol Lett. 4: 341–4. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2008.0252. PMC 2610162. PMID 18505711.
  7. ^ Moss, Stephen (2015-08-13). "Is that a chaffinch or a wren? We test birdsong apps Warblr and Chirpomatic". the Guardian. Retrieved 2016-06-24.
  8. ^ "Our Review: Best iPhone Apps for Learning Bird Songs". 2013-12-05. Retrieved 2016-06-24.
  9. ^ "Shazam for birds: new app Warblr can identify songs of 220 British birds". Retrieved 2016-06-24.
  10. ^ "App - Bird Song Id USA: Nature Apps - Sunbird". Retrieved 2016-06-24.
  11. ^ "Don't know birdsong? There's a (great) app for that". Retrieved 2016-06-24.