Do Birds Have Ears?
Do Birds Have Ears In fact, most birds have an excellent sense of hearing and can hear a much wider range of sounds than humans?. However, they have no outer ear structure like an ear lobe or external pinnae and in most species, the entrance to the ear is covered in a circle of soft loose-webbed feathers which overlap the ear known as the auricular or ear coverts.
What is the structure of the avian ear?
Birds have ears that are very similar to lizards. They are usually located just behind and slightly below the eye and each earhole can be as big as the eye. The ear coverts help protect the ear from the noise of the wind as the bird flies and keep out dust and water, but because they have no barbs, they don’t obstruct any sound entering the ear.
Just like humans, birds have three parts to their ears; the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear.
The outer ear channels air onto the eardrum or tympanic membrane and consist of a short passage called the meatus. Most birds have a muscle in the skin around the meatus that can partially or completely close the opening.
The middle ear sends the vibrations from the eardrum via an ossicular chain to the columella bone and the cochlea in the inner ear where they are carried by nerve receptors to the brain and interpreted as sound.
The cochlea of birds is like that found in crocodiles. It is a short, slightly curved bony tube measuring between 2.5 and 4.5 mm in most birds but up to 10 mm in owls.
How well can birds hear?
Despite not having a complex ear structure birds have well-developed hearing and it is the second most important sense after vision. They need a good hearing to be able to communicate with each other wthroughsongs and calls, and many species also rely on sound for hunting prey, and warnings of danger.
Some birds, such as flamingos and penguins, have such acute hearing that they can identify members of their family from their calls, even when they are among thousands of other individuals in a noisy flock.
Birds have a full hearing range from about 100 Hz to 14 kHz, which is slightly narrower than humans who can hear as low as 20 Hz and as high as 20 kHz depending on age, but it is most sensitive from 1 kHz to 4 kHz.
No species of birds have been shown to hear ultrasonic sounds above 20 kHz and although sensitivity to infrasound or frequencies below 20 Hz has not been studied much, some species such as pigeons, appear to show behavioral and physiological responses to very low frequencies.
It has been suggested that birds may migrate and navigate long distances using infrasound as a cue. In 1997 nearly a third of a flock of 60,000 homing pigeons were lost during a race across the English Channel when their flight path crossed that of Concorde. It is thought that the supersonic jet generated a sonic boom which prevented the birds from hearing the low-ffrequency soundsneeded to find their way home.
Evidence also suggests that birds can hear infrasound to predict storms, volcanos, and earthquakes, which causes them to change their behavior to escape from bad weather and other natural disasters.
And some birds, notably the nocturnal oilbird and some species of swiftlets, use echolocation, a technique to determine the location of objects using reflected sounds, just as bats, dolphins, and whales do. These birds live and hunt in dark caves and use sharp, audible clicks and rapid chirps to help them navigate in low levels of light and find insects to eat.
Part of the function of a human’s external ear is to help us identify sounds coming from different elevations. But because birds don’t have external ears, for a long time it was thought that birds were unable to determine where the sound was coming from.
However, a study conducted in 2014 by a team from a university in Germany found that birds are also able to tell whether the source of a sound is above or below them, or at the same level, and they do this due to the shape of their heads.
Depending on where sound waves hit a bird’s head they are reflected, absorbed, or diffracted. The head screens out sounds coming from certain directions while other sound waves pass through the head and trigger a response in the opposite ear.
The bird’s brain is then able to identify whether a sound is coming from above or below from the different volumes of sound in each ear. It is a highly accurate system and they can identify lateral sounds at an angle of elevation from -30° to +30°.
The phenomenon is most obvious in owls who have the most sensitive hearing of all birds. They have concave-shapedaped facial discs that direct sound to their ears and they can alter the shape of the disc with muscles in their face. Because an owl’s bill points downwards this increases the surface area over which sound waves are collected.
Some species of nocturnal owl, such as the barn owl, have ear openings that sit unevenly on either side of their head. This helps them pinpoint even more accurately where the sound is coming from. For example, in the barn, owl the left ear opening is higher than the right so if a sound is coming from below the owl’s line of sight it will be louder in the right ear than the left. The sound signals coming into the brain via the ears give owls a mental picture of the space around them and where the sound is coming from.
Why do some birds look like they have ears?
Some species of birds, such as the horned lark, stitchbird, black-necked grebe, the eared pheasants, various penguins, and about a third of all owls, have what look like ears on the top of their heads.
However, these are just tufts of feathers and have nothing to do with hearing. They are used for camouflage, courtship, and communication, and to signal aggression to other birds. Sometimes they are only visible when raised but they have no connection to the skeletal structure of the ear and aren’t used to direct sound to the opening of the ear.
Can birds hear well?
Birds have a well-developed ear despite not having a complex outer ear like mammals.
Birds have an audible frequency range of around 100Hz to 14,000Hz, which is slightly narrower than humans. Humans can hear as low as 20Hz, which is a low bass note or distant rumble of thunder,r, and as high as 20,000Hz, which is extremely high-pitched, something like the highest playable note on a violin. Despite their narrower range of hearing, some experiments have found that birds can detect infrasound, which are frequencies recorded below 20Hz. It’s unclear whether birds hear infrasound with their ears or detect it in some other way.
Avian hearing is also generally less sensitive than mammalian hearing but sensitive in the 1kHz to 4kHz range, and some intriguing adaptations give avian hearing an edge over many other animals. One such feature of bird ears is that, despite not having an external ear (pinnae) that mammals have, they’re still adept at pinpointing the exact location of a sound.
Researchers believe that the structure of the entire head helps birds pinpoint sounds, as well as their ability to accurately distinguish between different pitches.
Which birds have the best hearing?
Birds with particularly good hearing include owls who rely on both their excellent sight and their hearing to hunt prey in the pitch black of night.
Some species of owls have misaligned or asymmetrical ears that allow them to pinpoint the location of a sound with much better accuracy than humans. The misalignment creates a sort of time delay between one ear and the other, helping them decode where even the quietest noises are coming from.
Some owls like the Boreal Owl and Barn Owl have faces that look a bit like radar dishes – they’re designed to ‘catch’ sound and filter it through to their ears. They can even tweak the position of this ‘radar dish’ using their facial muscles. Together with their excellent sight, owls have some of the finest and most well-adapted senses in the animal kingdom.
Can birds hear ultrasonic sounds?
No species of birds have been demonstrated to hear ultrasonic sounds. Birds Birdspecially sensitive ears at high frequencies and have a narrower audible frequency range than humans.
There are a few animals that can accurately hear ultrasound, like bats and dolphins, but it’s not a common ability. Insects are also adept at hearing ultrasound and sensing ultrasonic vibrations.
What do you call a bird’s ear?
A bird’s ear has a nospecializedd name. The structure differs from mammalian ears in that there is no outer ear structure, called the pinnae. They still have an outer ear, though, as well as a middle and inner ear. The outer ear is just a tube that leads to the eardrum.
Bird ears are shielded by an auricular, a complex set of feathers that helps protect the ear from air turbulence and particles and helps funnel sound into the ear from across the bird’s head.
These aren’t to be confused with ear tufts which are most notably observed protruding from the head of the Great Horned owl. Despite looking like ears, these have nothing to do with hearing and are instead used for camouflage and communication.
Do birds like music?
Birdsong is not dissimilar from human music and has inspired countless pieces of music as well as poems, books, and art.
Some species of birds certainly have tremendous musical abilities and love to sing – a songbird might sing some 1,000 to 2,500 times every day! Parrots are a regular sight on social media, bopping, dancing, and nodding along to the music – and they certainly seem to be enjoying themselves.
As such, birds certainly seem like musical animals, but do they like music?
Studies have demonstrated that birds are good listeners and that they seem to understand music. After all, birdsong has the musical properties of pitch, tone, timbre, and RH,m, much the same as human music. There is some evidence to support that birds understand music; one notable study in 1984 found that pigeons could differentiate between Bach and Stravinsky, and in 2012, researchers found that birds had analogous auditory brain structures to humans, meaning that they’re possibly able to understand the same characteristics of music as we do. Further experiments similarly discovered that birds share some of the same intricate brain structures as humans, despite our common ancestors being some 320 million years old.
Perhaps most fascinating is that researchers have found birds enjoy their birdsongs in a similar way to how humans enjoy our ousic. This shows that birds don’t just sing for the sake of courtship, marking their territory and communication, but simply because they enjoy it.
If you think about it, there are few, if any, other creatures in the animal kingdom that produce advanced melodic sound in the same way as birds and humans. Other animals have vocal calls, but these don’t have the same level of complex musical features such as timbre, rhythm, pitch, and tone.
The short answer is yes, some birds appear to ‘like’ music in the same way we do, and they possibly sing their complex songs not just for the sake of courtship, mating, and communication, but also simply because they enjoy them. As far as music goes, humans and birds are not too dissimilar!
Why do birds sing?
A huge variety of birds sing. Some, like the Sedge Warbler and Brown Thrasher, have thousands of songs in their repertoire.
The musical properties of birdsong fascinated Darwin and are documented in The Voyage of the Beagle (1839) and On the Origin of Species (1859). Hetheorizedd that birdsong evolved to help birds communicate and survive, but the fact it evolved with such complexity still baffles scientists today.
We now know that Darwin was pretty much spot on. Firstly, birdsong acts as a means to attract a mate, and some birds are chosen on the basis that their songs are better than others. Birds also sing to announce their presence in their territory. As mentioned, birds don’t necessarily need a reason to sing at all – they sing because they enjoy singing, as would anyone who can sing as well as a songbird!
Can birds hear worms?
Some foraging birds like Robins and blackbirds are known to detect moving invertebrates under the earth before they can see them. They also probe the ground with their beak, which helps them detect vibrations under the soil.
Bird hearing is generally most sensitive at close ranges, which is why birds have to get pretty close to the ground to be able to hear these sorts of sounds – the sound of an earthworm moving in the soil is extremely quiet after all.
Can birds understand human voices?
There is some evidence to suggest that birds can recognize and identify humans by their voices as well as their appearance. Once a human voice becomes familiar to them, some birds can distinguish that human from others whose voices they do not recognize.
Whilst many birds from the songbird and parrot groups are excellent at mimicking human speech and will learn and repeat phrases spoken to them, some, like the Mynah bird, can create their new sentences from words and phrases that they learn. In a sense, then, they can be taught to speak similarly to humans, though they’d likely lack any conceptual understanding of what the words mean.
Even birds that can’t mimic other sounds have complex calls and methods of communication. Bird communication is amongst the most complex of all animal communication and is the result of sustained evolution over many thousands of years. Birdsong, mimicry, and bird communication still intrigue researchers today, and there is much left to learn.
We hope this article clarified how birds hear and provided other surprising facts about birds’ sensitive hearing. Through this article, we know that the real ears of birds are hidden under the feathers close to the head.
The ear of a bird is a tube lined with specialized feathers that detect and funnel sound waves into the ear. This structure aids in the amplification of sound, which goes through the bird’s head and into the brain.
In addition to those mentioned in the article, are there any other interesting facts about bird hearing that we do not know? Let’s share!
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