In this article we are going to discuss a few interesting topics about bird hearing.
Yes, birds have ears! In fact, hearing is the second more important sense to birds. It is essential for communication with other birds, hunting, reproduction, finding water, and orientation in the dark, and more.
How birds hear?
Birds hear in a more or less similar way that humans hear. In general, their hearing comes around the range of 1000-4000 Hz while humans hear between 20-20,000 Hz. They are more sensitive to the tone and rhythm of sounds so they are able to hear in a noisy environment.
Sounds that only birds can hear
Birds are able to hear very high-pitched sounds that are completely unadible for humans. Give your bird an ear for this video and you will realize it will react to what it may sound like pure silence!
Do birds listen to music?
Birds are capable of hearing musical notes normally (absolute pitch) and recognise ‘timbre’. That allows them to reproduce beautiful songs.
However, if you are trying to teach a bird a tune, be aware that birds are not able to recognize the same note at different pitches. This is called relative pitch. That means that if you sing the same song at different octaves, the bird won’t be able to realize it is the same song.
Avians are able to hear shorter notes than humans, for instance, while we can hear one soung, a bird is capable of hearing ten separate notes.
Do parrots actually enjoy music?
According to a research, parrots (not tested on other birds) seem to appreciate music and enjoy all varieties of music genre, except for eletro music or any kind of music with a very fast beat.
Some parrots seem to enjoy classical music while preening and relaxing. Others enjoy upbeat music, such as folk, rock, pop with a voice singing. It really depends on the bird.
We selected this video for you to play for your bird. See how it reacts to it, test another music genre and find out what kind of music it enjoys more.
Music can be a good help to distract them while they are by themselves in the house.
Where are birds ears located?
Birds do not have external ear lobes like humans, or other mamals do, just a little fold of flesh. It looks like a small orifice close to their eyes, usually camuflated by some short fluffy feathers. The feathers are there to protect from air turbulance and water.
Do birds like loud music?
The same way as we do, birds do not appreciate loud noises.
Birds/avians and animals in general (some more than others) can have much more sensitive hearing then us humans. You should avoid playing music too loudly near any animal.
Birds residing in the active areas of airports might be constantly subjected to sound pressure levels that damage their hearing. However, in theory maybe the damage wouldn’t be permanent, as it was discovered that mature birds are able to regenerate hair cells, which are the receptors for auditory perception.
What noise do birds hate?
Birds also don’t like any sound that is similar to a distress bird call or a predatory bird call. That’s why some bird repelent devices can be effective as they mimic particular distress calls.
They also do not enjoy fast beat noises, such as eletro music.
Birds will get attracted to natural sounds like water splashes, insect buzzes, and even to other birds’ songs.
Can birds hear worms?
There is indication that some birds might be able to hear soil rubbing together as the worms make their way through the tunnels they create in the ground.
The saying “the early bird catches the worm” is indeed a true fact. The birds that wake up early and use their good hearing to catch worms have more chances of having a feast. That happens because the works creep into the surface while the temperature is still cool to eat dew on the grass.
Some woodpeckers, though, have the ability to hear larvae crawling under the bark of a tree.
Hearing + Sight Combo for hunting and evasion
Our feathered friends use hearing and sight for sound orientation. They determine the source of a sound by moving their head, very much like we do. The difference is that they have almost 180º vision!
Additionally, birds have a special ability to process sounds coming from the left and right in different elevations. This ability, together with the hearing + sound combo gives them a boost when it comes to evading predators and hunting.
Take the Barn Owl as an example. They are able to hear hustling under the snow at frequencies as low as 20 decibels despite winds. Their faces act like a satellite dish formed by a ring of stiff feathers. They collect and channel sounds inward. To pinpoint the landing, it moves its head. You can see the Barn Owl in action in this amazing video below:
Can birds hear ultrasonic sound?
No species of bird has shown sensitivity to ultrasonic frequencies (>20 kHz). However, pigeons and a few other species have shown behavioral and physiological responses to these low frequencies.
In fact, some bird species, such as the Steatornis caripensis or the oil bird of South America are able to use echoes of emitted sounds (echolocation). They use sounds in a range between 1.0 and 15 kHz, emitted in staccato bursts, to orientate themselves in the dark caves in which they roost.
Sound as a way to recognize family
Did you know that you can hear a chick chirp inside of its egg before it hatches? It’s a cool advantage used by baby chicks to communicate with their siblings in order to synchronize hatching and communicate with their bird parents.
In summary, sound can be used by birds to distinguish parent and mate calls, as well as to communicate with them. Penguins, for example, can distinguish the exact calls of their own chicks, even in a flock of thousands.
In conclusion, despite not having really visible ears for us humans, birds do hear and this sense is quite important for their survival.
For pet birds, music can be a great source of enjoyment on their cage time and provide much needed distraction to prevent stress and its consequences for their health.