Syrinx (bird anatomy)

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For other uses, see Syrinx (disambiguation).
Schematic drawing of an avian syrinx
1: last free cartilaginous tracheal ring, 2: tympanum, 3: first group of syringeal rings, 4: pessulus, 5: membrana tympaniformis lateralis, 6: membrana tympaniformis medialis, 7: second group of syringeal rings, 8: main bronchus, 9: bronchial cartilage
Syrinx (serial 5) seen just below the crop

The syrinx (Greek σύριγξ for pan pipes) is the vocal organ of birds. Located at the base of a bird's trachea, it produces sounds without the vocal folds of mammals.[1] The sound is produced by vibrations of some or all of the membrana tympaniformis (the walls of the syrinx) and the pessulus, caused by air flowing through the syrinx. This sets up a self-oscillating system that modulates the airflow creating the sound. The muscles modulate the sound shape by changing the tension of the membranes and the bronchial openings.[2] The syrinx enables some species of birds (such as parrots, crows, and mynas) to mimic human speech. Unlike the larynx of mammals, the syrinx is located where the trachea forks into the lungs. Thus, lateralization of bird song is possible and some songbirds can produce more than one sound at a time.[3] Some species of birds, such as New World vultures, lack a syrinx and communicate through throaty hisses.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Terres, J. K. (1980). The Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds. New York, NY: Knopf. p. 995. ISBN 0-394-46651-9. 
  2. ^ Larsen, O. N.; Franz Goller (2002). "Direct observation of syringeal muscle function in songbirds and a parrot". The Journal of Experimental Biology. 205 (Pt 1): 25–35. PMID 11818409. 
  3. ^ Suthers, R.A. (October 1990). "Contributions to birdsong from the left and right sides of the intact syrinx". Nature. 347 (6292): 473–477. Bibcode:1990Natur.347..473S. doi:10.1038/347473a0.