Home / Science / This bird song is the world's highest. Friends don't always wake up

This bird song is the world's highest. Friends don't always wake up



The bell bird is not one of them.

It prefers to blast its screaming mating conversations in the woman's faces in almost eye-catching volumes. Surprisingly, the date does not always end well.

The white white bell bird is perhaps the tallest bird ever recorded, per finding published in the journal Current Biology.
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For a human, the special scream would sound louder than a jackhammer or highway on eight.

Jeffrey Podos, a study author and a biology professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, called it the voice equivalent of a peacock's elaborate tail – birds attract potential mates with dramatic displays of their fitness.

Volume, it seems, is a critical factor in sexual selection.

But in this unique prison ritual, the male bird screams its song directly at the female bell bird. Romance has a different meaning in the bird world.

How does a small animal make such a booming sound?

Sexual selection drives everything, Podos said. Women are extremely healthy with their potential mates, and men are driven by experiential competition.

But the volume of their screams evolved from their diet, he said: The bell jam picks and eats whole fruit and spends all day digesting it and then spitting out the seeds.

Podos called it a "very theater" ritual – suitable for a spotlight-hogging bird.

To swallow fruit completely, the beak has been developed to open at geometry-deflected angles, wider than 90 degrees, he said. But it has had some acoustic benefits as well.

The width at which they open the beak serves as the brass end of the brass instruments as trumpets and tubes that amplify their sound. The shape allows for more efficient transmission of energy, and the birds have learned to use their small instruments to produce fully coupled mating calls.

Scientists are still not sure why they are screaming

Now that they have nailed down the bizarre sound, researchers (perhaps rolled from ear-splitting headaches) have left wondering – what is its function?

It's a question that deserves further research, Podos said. It would certainly never fly in the human world.

The women they studied did not seem to like the song, although it drew them near the offending male.

And while other species usually turn down the drama when a potential mate comes close, the bird clocked the volume of its song up several decibels, which could damage the female bird's hearing.

"We saw no cases when the woman accepted the male, when they were eventually paired," he said.

The bird lives in the Amazon. It may be a bad thing

The bell bird's conversation had never been studied like this before, and learning more about its unique function requires more research.

But in 20 years, the team's field site – the bird's habitat – could disappear, Podos said.

The birds live in the northern Amazon rainforest in Brazil. The dry season there runs from January to March, when conditions are perfect for expansive burns (the southern Amazon basin dries out in the summer, and this season produced widespread fires).

While in the field, Podos and his team saw farmers setting fire to clear their land which eventually jumped the road and climbed up the mountain towards the peaks where the bell bird lives.

"There are lots of similar places in the forest that have already disappeared," he said. "We don't know what we lost with it."

Amazonas is a unique biodiversity collection of ecosystems, where it is estimated that a new plant or animal species is discovered every other day. Future insights about the bell bird and the millions of species it shares with the Amazon are threatened by continued loss of life.

"They are wonderful birds, they are not very well known, and without any fault of their own, they are at risk," he said. "It's just like human culture has spread."


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