The broadbill's strange song may set your heart aflutter.
March 30, 2016
Most birds have to open their beaks to sing, but when it comes to the dainty broadbill, all it has to do is wiggle its wings. In African and Rufous-sided Broadbills, circular flight displays (see the video below) are accompanied by a pulsing song that can be heard from more than 300 feet away. The brreeeeet sound, which resembles a klaxon horn, doesn’t come from vocalizations, but rather from the fluttering of wing feathers, as explained in a study published today in the Journal of Experimental Biology.
Some types of birds, such as hummingbirds and doves, can sing with both their syrinx—the avian equivalent of a voicebox—and their wings and tails, says study author Christopher Clark, a researcher at the
University of California, .
Riverside Clark knew that broadbills make some pretty
cool noises, too, but wasn't sure whether they came from the bill
or the feathers.
To find out, Clark and his colleagues traveled to
to take video and audio recordings of African and Rufous-sided Broadbills
during their circular flight—a behavior the scientists speculate might be
for romancing and defending territory. Back in the lab, they analyzed
the clips and correlated the sound pulses with the down strokes of the wings.
The scientists also noticed gaps between a handful of the 10 primary
feathers—located at the outermost part of the wing and connected to the bird’s
wrist bone. Uganda