Re: RFI Birdsong

To: Stephen Martin <>
Subject: Re: RFI Birdsong
From: Andrew Taylor <>
Date: Wed, 25 Nov 1998 11:17:07 +1100 (EST)
On Wed, 25 Nov 1998, Stephen Martin wrote:
> While researching, I've spoken to Cetaceans and read articles, who 
> (and which) claim that humpback whales are the only known species to 
> have 
> a) geographically distinct 'songs'(regional differences)
> b) change these 'songs' 
> and which
> c) sing for more than a few seconds.
> I know that this is incorrect I've heard many bird species sing for 
> much longer than 'a few seconds' and I understand that butcherbirds 
> have regional variations - not to mention lyrebirds.
> Could someone please steer me towards an authoritative source for 
> confrmation or refutation please ?

There is a little truth in  (c).  As (I think all) birds sing only as
they expire air, you could could say song length is limited by lung capcity.
However I don't think most people define songs this way.  Also I believe
a single breath may last 20+ seconds, but I'm not sure about this.

Humpback Whales don't sing using expired air hence this "limit" isn't

I suspect the annual change in the song of (some?) Humpback Whale
populations is "larger"  and more "complete"  than in any bird.

A good ref is Bird Song by Catchpole & Slater - Cambridge University
Press, 1995.  The chapter on song in Welty's "Life of Birds"  is good too.

Andrew Taylor

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