Wednesday, May 05, 2010


Traditional thought tells us that birds sing to define their territory and to attract a mate. But as I was lying awake this morning, listening to the pre-dawn "chorus" of birds, it didn't sound to me like it was all purposeful. So, I wondered if any animal scientists have had the nerve to come out and say that birds sing for the fun of it.

As I checked various sources, besides the many references to territory and mates, I found that parent birds teach their baby birds the songs they sing. And baby birds will "babble" before they learn to sing their songs. "The parallels between human and bird language are indeed striking," said psychology professor Bob McMurray of the University of Iowa. While some birds learn to sing in a matter of days, the Australian Lyrebird takes on average six years to learn the song.

It's been known for some time that birds' songs vary with geographic regions; the equivalent of dialects. In noisy environments, birds alter their songs to be heard above the noise.

Recent studies have discovered actual bird conversations, as multiple microphones allowed the researches to follow responses through a flock.
They've shown that Banded Wrens are listening and responding to one another, sending out purposeful and dynamic messages to multiple neighbors.
But are they having fun? I found one person who was willing to allow that they were.
Luis Baptista, former curator of ornithology at the California Academy of Science, said they do sing for fun. "Sometimes birds sing just because they're happy, they've had a good meal, they've nothing to worry about. This is an expression, if you will, of well-being."

"If you will"? Of course I will. Why not?

1 comment:

  1. I have a pet budgie and I think birds definitely sing for fun and to communicate with each other. Most of the time his singing doesn't really sound like it has a purpose to me. It really does look like he is just having fun trying to imitate different sounds he hears or using them to come up with a new song. He also likes listening to birds from outside. He sings something and waits for a reply. The birds from outside almost always reply and my budgie answers back. That really looks like communication to me.