Fw: Mechanically produced sounds by birds.

To: "Jim Davis" <>
Subject: Fw: Mechanically produced sounds by birds.
From: Carol Probets <>
Date: Sun, 30 Jan 2000 02:09:31 +1100
Hi Jim,

The one that immediately came to my mind is the Red Wattlebird, which
sometimes uses bill-clapping as part of its female-male duet. It is
mentioned in the Reader's Digest Complete Book of Australian Birds, which

"SONG: Mellow, ringing tew-tew-tew-tew by female injected with harsh deep
coughing chork-ch-chok-ch-ch-chock by male, in duet; often introduced by
bill snapping."

I'm not sure which sex does the bill snapping in this situation. I have
sometimes heard lyrebirds mimic this bill snapping without the rest of the
wattlebirds' song, and I think it is distinctive enough to be recognisable
as a wattlebird's bill snapping. It is quite rapid.

I have also been swooped at by a male Red Wattlebird who clapped his bill
at me in the same way that Australian Magpies do. I was in his territory
(my garden) and I guess the bill snapping makes the attack more
intimidating. I know the wattlebird was a male because he and his mate
owned my garden for a while and I got to know them well. One was noticably
bigger than the other, and as I had seen them mating, I knew that the
bigger of the two was the male (unless they were trying out a new
position). This was also consistent with their respective parts in the duet
as described above.

Loud wingbeats are used by a number of pigeons as you mentioned, but what
about the Eastern Spinebill? It flies with a characteristic flip-flop
sound. I wonder if this has a signalling function or if it is just an
accidental result of anatomy.

An interesting topic, I reckon.


Carol Probets
Katoomba NSW

Jim Davis wrote:

>I am researching an article on mechanical sound production in birds for an
>upcoming issue of the IB Bulletin, I am in need of good Australian examples.
>Specifically,  I am interested in externally produced sounds (not songs)
>that have evolved to serve for a particular function(s) ... e.g. sounds used
>in courtship displays, territorial advertisements, warning signals, etc.
>It would be most helpful if you include the names of species with a
>description of the sound produced.  Species that I am aware of include:
>Palm Cockatoos
>Some doves
>As you can see I am low on Australian examples.
>Bill clapping would be a good one if I had specific information on a given
>species and the context in which the sound is produced?   Albatrosses come
> to mind.
> Any others?
> Cheers, Jim
> Dr Wm. James Davis, Editor
> Interpretive Birding Bulletin

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