There's nothing like the sweet sound of birdsong and it's easy to think that the sound of all bird calls is a beautiful music experience. Indeed hasn't the sound of birdsong inspired some of our greatest composers?
What is the loudest bird?
But that's not always the case. Some birds tweet, others cackle, squawk or honk. However it’s harder to put a name to the ear-splitting sound produced by the male white bellbird, a curious Amazonian species that also sports a prominent, comedy wattle dangling from above its beak, but it’s something like the two-tone horn of a fast train approaching a station.
How do they make that deafening sound?
Producing the song requires the birds to generate such huge internal pressures that if it weren’t for their extra-thick abdominal muscles, they might literally burst. Unfathomably, females of the species find the noise attractive, which is fortunate because the males are prone to bellow right in their faces when sharing a perch. How the females avoid hearing damage is still not understood.
Main image: Male white bellbird © Hector Bottai from São Paulo, Brasil, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons