Other Birds - Sounds Wild
Nonvocal Bird Songs


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Nonvocal bird songs

Nothing says it's spring quite like bird songs - robins, varied thrush and even sparrows. But not all bird songs are sung. Some birds, such as woodpeckers, call to prospective mates by drumming, hammering their beaks on a resonant surface. These woodpeckers aren't just drilling into a tree for food, and often they chose particularly resonant surfaces such as drainspouts, mailboxes and metal signs to announce their presence. Woodpeckers do have voices and make calls, but drumming is a form of communication.

Nighthawks also have a call that's non-vocal, a sound that's generated by their wings. They have a characteristic call, but the males also make a distinct, loud sound with their feathers. A nighthawk will make a fast, steep dive, and pull out just a few feet from the ground. At the bottom of the dive, air rushes through the bird's wings, vibrating the primary wing feathers.

Some of the seaducks also have noisy wings, but the whistling sound made when goldeneyes and scoters fly isn't a deliberate call.

The common snipe is another bird that uses its feathers to make sound, called winnowing. In a behavior similar to the night hawk, the snipe will dive - but instead of the wing feathers vibrating, the snipe spreads its tail feathers - creating a distinct sound.