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Birdsong Warm-Ups

February 8, 2017

Songbirds, like people, may need to warm up their voices before they sing.


4561819065_c46ec75db3_b Rafy Rodriguez CC BY NC-SA 2.0, via flickr

An Adelaide’s warbler sings in Puerto Rico. (Rafy Rodriguez/CC BY NC-SA 2.0, via flickr, cropped)


Songbird warm-ups. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

(Human singer warming up)

Singers sound their best after they’ve warmed up their vocal chords. And the same may be true for songbirds, according to San Diego State University behavioral ecologist Hannes Schraft. He and his colleagues found that over the course of the day, male Adelaide’s warblers improved their performance of songs like this:

(Adelaide’s warbler song)


It’s really difficult to both change the pitch a lot and to also sing those notes really quickly. It has been shown that in human singers warming up actually improves the perceived tone quality, and we found something similar with the birds.


The researchers write in the journal Animal Behaviour that the vocal warm-ups could be one explanation for the cacophony of birdsong heard in many places every morning. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.


Story by Susanne Bard

Vocal warm-up by C.J. Elder