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Ecuadorian hummingbirds chirp ultrasonic songs of seduction

July 21, 2020

Part three of our impromptu series on hummingbirds.


Ecuadorian hummingbirds chirp ultrasonic songs of seduction

Retrieved from CP24.com, Toronto
The Associated Press | Christina Larson | Friday, July 17, 2020

Perched on a flowering shrub on a windy Andean mountainside, the tiny Ecuadorian Hillstar hummingbird chirps songs of seduction that only another bird of its kind can hear. As the male sings, he inflates his throat, causing iridescent throat feathers to glisten princely purple. The female may join in a courtship dance – or chase him off. For the first time, scientists have shown that these hummingbirds can sing and hear in pitches beyond the known range of other birds, according to research published Friday in the journal Science Advances.

More on the CP24 website.

Here’s the original study article from Science Advances, 17 July 2020.

High-frequency hearing in a hummingbird

Authors: F. G. Duque, C. A. Rodriguez-Saltos, S. Uma, I. Nasir, M.F. Monteros, W. Wilczynski, L.L. Carruth.
Science Advances, 17 Jul 2020: Vol. 6, no. 29, eabb9393.
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abb9393

The complete study is on the website (possibly for only a short time); here’s the abstract.

Abstract: Some hummingbirds produce unique high-frequency vocalizations. It remains unknown whether these hummingbirds can hear these sounds, which are produced at frequencies beyond the range at which most birds can hear. Here, we show behavioral and neural evidence of high-frequency hearing in a hummingbird, the Ecuadorian Hillstar (Oreotrochilus chimborazo). In the field, hummingbirds responded to playback of high-frequency song with changes in body posture and approaching behavior. We assessed neural activation by inducing ZENK expression in the brain auditory areas in response to the high-frequency song. We found higher ZENK expression in the auditory regions of hummingbirds exposed to the high-frequency song compared to controls, while no difference was observed in the hippocampus between groups. The behavioral and neural responses show that this hummingbird can hear sounds at high frequencies. This is the first evidence of the use of high-frequency vocalizations and high-frequency hearing in conspecific communication in a bird.

[Posted by Chuck Almdale]

One Comment
  1. Lynn Bossone permalink
    July 23, 2020 3:18 pm

    Thank you again for another fascinating blog. Lynn Bossone

    Sent from my iPad

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