Hummingbirds – Imitative Songs

Hummingbirds – Imitative Songs
Music
Ambiance: Hummingbirds DAT 01..05.29

Along with humans, there’re relatively few animals capable of learning and imitating sounds. But nature’s vocal mimics are a diverse group, ranging from giant whales, to nocturnal bats . . . to some of the world’s tiniest birds. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Erich Jarvis teaches in the department of Neurobiology at Duke University Medical Center. He says you might be surprised to find one of natures most accomplished vocal imitators buzzing around your own backyard.

“It’s widely known that parrots are able to imitate. But then you tell somebody that a hummingbird can imitate sounds – they find that quite surprising. And the reason is that most people think that hummingbirds just don’t sing. Hummingbirds are quite small animals, and their vocalizations are very high in frequency. And because of that, when many people hear the hummingbird’s song, they think they’re hearing an insect.”

By slowing down and analyzing those high-pitched sounds, Duke researchers have discovered that hummingbirds actually perform incredibly rich and complex songs. The songs are learned, and passed down from parent to offspring.

“What you’re hearing right now is the song of the Rufous Breasted Hermit and it’s song is the most complicated that I’ve actually seen from a songbird, and it’s from one of the tiniest birds. Its notes are produced in rolling waves of decreasing and increasing frequencies. And if you look at what you call sonograms of these songs, they look very complicated. They have many harmonics, many different sound frequencies to them, and there’s a slow changing of the notes from one type into another.”

We’ll hear more about hummingbirds and vocal imitation in future programs.

Pulse of the Planet is presented with support provided by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

Hummingbirds - Imitative Songs

Hummingbirds are tiny virtuosos of the animal kingdom.
Air Date:03/06/2012
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Hummingbirds - Imitative Songs
Music
Ambiance: Hummingbirds DAT 01..05.29

Along with humans, there're relatively few animals capable of learning and imitating sounds. But nature's vocal mimics are a diverse group, ranging from giant whales, to nocturnal bats . . . to some of the world's tiniest birds. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Erich Jarvis teaches in the department of Neurobiology at Duke University Medical Center. He says you might be surprised to find one of natures most accomplished vocal imitators buzzing around your own backyard.

"It's widely known that parrots are able to imitate. But then you tell somebody that a hummingbird can imitate sounds - they find that quite surprising. And the reason is that most people think that hummingbirds just don't sing. Hummingbirds are quite small animals, and their vocalizations are very high in frequency. And because of that, when many people hear the hummingbird's song, they think they're hearing an insect."

By slowing down and analyzing those high-pitched sounds, Duke researchers have discovered that hummingbirds actually perform incredibly rich and complex songs. The songs are learned, and passed down from parent to offspring.

"What you're hearing right now is the song of the Rufous Breasted Hermit and it's song is the most complicated that I've actually seen from a songbird, and it's from one of the tiniest birds. Its notes are produced in rolling waves of decreasing and increasing frequencies. And if you look at what you call sonograms of these songs, they look very complicated. They have many harmonics, many different sound frequencies to them, and there's a slow changing of the notes from one type into another."

We'll hear more about hummingbirds and vocal imitation in future programs.

Pulse of the Planet is presented with support provided by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.