Tail singers | Science News


Support nonprofit journalism

Subscribe now


Tail singers

11:58am, August 20, 2007

The sound effects of Anna's hummingbirds, widespread along the West Coast, have been misunderstood, according to a new test.

Some of the males' most dramatic noises aren't vocalizations, as has been thought. Instead, the birds make noises by whipping their tails through the air.

Males, with iridescent, rose-colored throats and heads, perform aerial dives when courting a female or confronting another male. For a display, a male flies high in the air and then drops nearly straight down. When he's plummeted to the level of his intended audience, he pulls out of the dive while sounding an explosive squeak.

In the late 1970s, ornithologists decided that those notes came from the birds' vocal organs. Chris Clark and Teresa Feo of the University of California, Berkeley have challenged that

This article is only available to Science News subscribers. Already a subscriber? Log in now. Or subscribe today for full access.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More from Science News

From the Nature Index Paid Content