Birds Communicate In Many Ways – Do You Know How?

birds communicate

Photo via Flickr.

Birds communicate with each other by singing songs, through their behavior and even their coloring. Here is an overview on the different ways birds communicate.

The ability to communicate with other individuals is crucial for the lives of most animals.  Different animals communicate in different ways, some are vocal and many others are non-vocal.  Birds communicate through both kinds and do so for many different reasons.  Unlike humans, birds are unable to communicate complex thoughts with the words they use.  Instead they sometimes use complex calls and displays.

Why And When Do Birds Communicate?

Similar to humans, birds communicate with each other for many different reasons.  This could be a very long list and I am only going to list some of the reasons here.

Some of these include letting others know of a threat, or telling another bird that the outsider has entered it’s territory.

They also communicate when it is time to find a mate, breed, or as Emperor Penguins do – to identify each other.  One final reason that birds communicate is to try and distract or scare away a predator.

birds communicate

A western tanager singing. Photo via Flickr.

Birds Use Vocal Communication

This is one that most of us are familiar with – birds singing or chirping.  As I sit in my office writing this I can hear many different bird calls, communicating different things.  First though I want to explain the difference between a call and a song.  A call is a short, innate sound a bird makes.  In contrast, a song is much more complex and must be learned by the bird.

Birds can have more than a dozen different kinds of common calls that they will make to communicate.  These are used to signal an alarm, to warn off predators, or to a mate.

Songs, are longer and are used to signal ones territory among other things.  A male may develop many different songs.  Scientists hypothesize that males learn many complex songs as a way of letting females know how smart they are and that they would make a good mate.

Birds Use Non-Vocal Communication

One way that birds can get a message to others is simply through the coloring of their feathers.  As we talked about previously, birds molt their feathers every year.  Certain colors or patterns are a way of communicating their age, or if they are a male/female.

birds communicate

A seagull making an aggressive physical display. Photo via Flickr.

Birds also use physical movements to communicate with each other.  For example, a bird may bob its head up and down, or throw its head backwards or even open up its wings and flap as a sign of aggression.  I have often seen seagulls using these aggressive physical displays towards each other.