How do birds hear? | Do birds have ears?

Birds have ears and have a sharp sense of hearing. It is the second most important sense next to sight. Birds do not possess external ears rather the internal funnel-shaped ears are positioned slightly behind the eyes.

How does the hearing sense of Birds Work

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Intro Video - Backtobirds

Birds’ hearing is limited to a fewer frequency between 1 kHz to 4 kHz when compared to other mammals and creatures but is vigilant towards pitch, tone, and change in rhythm, and has acute sound recognition

Birds use unique sound patterns and calls to make the other birds configure whether the call is a warning from the predators or to navigate to the food. 

Some birds use Echolocation like bats to get their food.  They also use these sound patterns to identify their mates and differentiate birds in a loud flock.

Internal ear of the birds. Where are they located?

Birds’ ears are located below their eyes and are covered with soft feathers called auriculars for protection and to avoid turbulence.

The internal ear of the bird has three parts, the outer, middle, and inner ear. The outer ear which is filled with air passes sound vibrations to the tympanum or the eardrum. The middle ear channels the sound vibrations to the inner ear through a bone called the columella.

The sound vibrations in the inner ear are passed through the cochlea ( a fluid-filled chamber) where cilia (hair-like hearing cells) transform the sound vibrations into the brain directly through nerve impulses.

Related Read: Birds Body Parts: 21 Things And Facts You Should Know

Birds And Echolocation

There are several birds that use echolocation rather than ears to avoid colliding with fellow birds or other dangerous obstacles.

There are oilbirds, bats, and other birds which use echolocation. They make different sounds. These sounds touch the obstacle in their way and bounce back to them as echoes.

It helps them learn the location of their fellow members of the flock and other things. It comes in handy, especially at night.

Interesting part about birds hearing

Some species of birds use the calls even before they are hatched. Quail chicks use some pattern of sound to communicate with their mom from their eggs. It helps them at hatching where they all emerge from the eggs within the stipulated time.

Baby Pelicans tell their mum about the climatic conditions from inside the eggs. This way they come to know about their parents before they come out from the egg.

Related Read: Do Birds Regrow Feathers | Why Do Birds Pluck Their Feathers?

Do birds hear humans?

Birds cannot understand human language but they can hear the voices of humans. Some birds remember their owner’s voice and respond to them. Some birds like parrots imitate the sounds produced by their trainer. 

For street birds, the sounds produced during a conversation, argument, or even laughter make them annoyed and it will fly away.

What Bird Songs Mean?

Humans use words, tone, pitch, and tongue to spell what they want to say. Birds are different. They have their own protocols for communication.

Singing in different voices is one of them. What seems like different songs to humans are various signals they give to their fellow birds. There is a different sing-song voice for calling their offsprings for lunch, a different voice for danger, a different one for their mates, etc.

So what you perceive as sound is actually a mode of communication and birds don’t hear it as humans do. They read the signal in those songs.

Do birds listen to music?

Birds like to listen to soft melodious tones but some of the tones near to high noises may have an opposite effect on the birds. Birds get attracted to natural sounds like water splashes, insect buzzes, and even to other birds’ songs

Pet birds can be attracted to some of the sounds played by their owner and some birds were trained to listen to the music and dance according to the pattern.

Birds And Hearing Loss

One of the major differences between human and bird hearing is that birds never go deaf. Yes, Professor Ed Rubel from Washington University discovered 20 years ago that birds revive hearing loss. 

For years, scientists have been wondering what is different between humans and birds. Birds are very sensitive to sounds. Loud noises and trauma can rob them of their hearing abilities. But they get it back. How? Read on.

Both in birds and mammals, there is the inner structure of the ear, called the cochlea. Thousands of hearing cells, called hair cells, are hidden underneath them.

These hair-like cilia stand up and sense the sound. They deflect on hearing the sound and the electrical signal passes to the auditory nerve.  

These hair cells are common in mammals and birds but what is uncommon is that if these hair cells die in humans, they never revive. The person becomes deaf and the hair cells lie down. But birds regrow these cells.

Birds have progenitor cells beneath the hair cells. Over time, the progenitors grow like hair cells and birds never go deaf. Humans aren’t so lucky.

Related Read: What Do You Give A Sick Bird? How Do You Revive Its Health?

What Are Ear Tufts In Some Birds?

In 1/3rd of the owl species, ear tufts can be seen on the top of the head. But they do not aid in helping at all.

Yes, these are not ears but only a physical aid that helps them in hiding. They use it as camouflage. It is more of a defense mechanism.

They spread the feather when in danger, and seem bigger and fiercer to the enemy, compelling it to run away. 

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