BeKZN Calendar 2023

Soundtracks of our World – Birdsong!

BeKZN Calendar 2023


Most birds have a wide repertoire of songs and calls and learning the differences between these and listening for additional sounds can make all the difference to your birding.  Among the songbirds and various other groups of birds (such as cuckoos, owls, and nightjars), songs are generally used to defend territory and attract mates. Therefore, it’s the males that sing the most and usually during the breeding season.

What is the difference between a song and a call?  Birds can tailor calls to respond to a wide variety of situations with a range of contactflight, and begging calls.  

How Recordings may Harm Birds

What are the consequences, both ethical and empirical, of using playback? 

When a bird hears a recording, it cannot tell that the sound is recorded. Because many birds use songs to claim territory, hearing another song may make the bird believe its territory has been invaded by a competitor, and it will seek out that competitor to challenge it. When a bird responds to a recording, it is no longer foraging, caring for eggs or chicks, preening, resting, or otherwise doing the activities it needs to survive. Instead, the agitated bird is now chasing a fake bird.

Constantly chasing competitors stresses a bird, and unlimited recording use can dramatically impact its well-being. While no studies have yet proven conclusively how much harm recordings do to birds, some results have shown that males may lose dominance in the eyes of their mates because of recordings, which can impact whether those birds can breed successfully. 

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