Birds and Sound

How birds locate sounds

(You are right, the picture below is NOT a bird ear.)


As you may know, being able to locate and identify the source of a noise/sound is crucial for survival. That is why our ears are so sensitive and our hearing so acute. (And is why this blog exists!)

You have probably had the experience of trying to track a sound, especially an unfamiliar one – you turn your head, you tilt your head, you scan with your eyes, and then re-calibrate with your ears. And all the time, your brain is zipping along, tracking all the in-coming data. And then you ‘see’ it – the red cardinal sitting high up in the tree across and down the street. And you did this very quickly, primarily using your ears.


And, as you may remember from “Nature of Things”, or “National Geographic”, birds do not have external ears. And yet, birds are bery good at locating the sources of sounds.

The study discussed in the article linked below examined how chickens, crows and ducks locate sound. Spoiler alert:  it all seems to depend on the shape of the birds’ heads.


Here is the link:

For those of you who want to read the whole tamale, the complete article from PLOS One can be found here.

So next time you see a bird outside, you will now know how they can track sound without having ears!!

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