Do bird songs have frequencies higher than humans can hear?

April 1, 2009
Brown Creepers have song on the higher end of frequency spectrum, but it is still usually in the range of human hearing. Photo by Sue Barth via Birdshare. Brown Creepers have song on the higher end of frequency spectrum, but it is still usually in the range of human hearing. Photo by Sue Barth via Birdshare.
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The frequency range of human hearing is often reported to be between 20 and 20,000 Hz. As we grow older, we all tend to lose the ability to hear higher frequencies.

Many bird songs have frequency ranges between 1,000 Hz and 8,000 Hz, which places them in the sweet spot of human hearing. On the high end, many warblers, sparrows, waxwings, kinglets, and a number of other birds produce sounds that reach 8,000 Hz and beyond. Examples of the frequency ranges of bird songs:

  • Brown Creeper: from 3750 to 8000 Hz
  • Cedar Waxwing: from 6000 to 8000 Hz
  • Blackpoll Warbler: from 8000 to 10,000 Hz
  • On the low end, Dwarf Cassowaries in New Guinea have been recorded giving calls as low as 23 Hz.

You can test your own hearing by visiting a web page from the University of Kentucky, “Frequency Response of the Ear.” You will have a choice of frequency ranges. Keep in mind that the frequency response of the speakers attached to your computer, especially internal speakers, will have a limited frequency response range. This will often fall between about 100 and 10,000 Hz. Check the specifications on your speakers to determine their frequency range.

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