What are Song Birds?

Written by on September 22, 2014 in Song Birds with 5 Comments

We have all heard the sounds of birds, some are chirps, but some have a variety of sounds. These are the song birds. They have vocal organs that have developed to create a diverse and sometimes elaborate collection of sounds.

Song birds belong to the order of perching birds, called Passeriformes. They are often grouped by their Latin name of Oscines, which literally means “songbird.” There are over 4,000 different types of song birds and can be found all over the world.

Typically, bird songs are heard strongest in the Spring time. This is simply because the vast majority of vocalizing for birds is around courting time. Male birds attract mates with their songs and establish feeding territory for their mate and future offspring the same way.

Other calls can be heard, too. Sometimes warnings to other birds of danger approaching is confused with bird songs. These are not. Many birds, including songbirds, have the ability to sound warning calls.

When you hear bird songs, listen carefully for the variety in a single call. Typically, that call is repeated 2, 3 or more times. You can discern distinct notes. My favorite call is one made by the Northern Cardinal. I’m sure that I’m hearing the male Cardinal call out “here kitty, kitty.” I think it’s rather humorous, since he is always out of a cat’s reach. But, the distinction that I hear is a longer higher pitched sound first, followed by 4 short lower pitched sounds. That’s a song in the bird world.

Although birds like Parrots can be taught to imitate human sounds, they are not Oscines. Only true song birds have the ability to mimic various sounds. The mockingbird is the perfect example.

While most song birds have a call that is pleasant to the human ear, a few do not. The crow family are Oscines, even though we usually consider their calls to be harsh. The Raven, a member of the crow family, has a large and diverse range of sounds, many can seem pleasant to a human. But, usually the “caw” of the crow sounds harsh.

So next time you hear a bird call, listen carefully. Is it a single note which may be repeated? Or is it a variety of notes? Even just two distinct notes is a bird song.

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  1. Cynthia says:

    The songbirds outside my window every morning make me want to sing with them. They remind me that there is life worth singing about.

  2. Barb says:

    I’ve been very aware lately of many bird songs, many more than I ever heard during the summer. Love it! Perhaps they’re still calling their mates to them. Yes! I’ve distinctly heard that “Here kitty, kitty” one too!

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