Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

A male white bellbird screaming its mating call.

The male white bellbird boasts a black wattle on its beak and a voice that reaches 125 decibels — a higher volume than any other recorded bird. Credit: Anselmo d’Affonseca

Animal behaviour

A bird’s ear-splitting shriek smashes the record for loudest song

The male white bellbird’s voice is powerful enough to damage the hearing of the female he is trying to woo.

When it comes to courtship, some rituals can be raucous. The white bellbird of the Amazonian mountains produces mating calls that can be louder than a bison’s bellows and a howler monkey’s howls.

Jeffrey Podos at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and Mario Cohn-Haft at the National Institute of Amazonian Research in Manaus, Brazil, recorded the songs of both screaming pihas (Lipaugus vociferans), which were the loudest bird songs yet reported, and the 210-gram male white bellbirds (Procnias albus). The researchers found that the bellbird’s song can reach 125 decibels, which is roughly 9 decibels louder than the piha’s song and is as loud as a very noisy rock concert.

The white bellbird’s loud, piercing song contrasts with the softer melody of a member of the Euphonia group of songbirds.

Download MP3

The researchers also found that when a female white bellbird joined a male on his perches, he sang his loudest song, blasting its final note directly at the female. As the males sang, females moved backwards but remained close, which could expose them to ear damage.

Why females linger as males sing so loudly is unclear, but the scientists suspect they may be trying to assess their mates up close.

More Research Highlights...

Light micrograph of a human egg cell during fertilisation

As a human egg cell is fertilized, two chromosome-containing cellular structures (dotted circles, centre) merge into one — a process that often goes wrong. Credit: Pascal Goetgheluck/Science Photo Library

Developmental biology

The error-prone step at the heart of making an embryo

High-resolution imaging shows why the union between two sets of chromosomes goes awry as least as often as not.
Satellite image of broken iceberg B-44.

Dark water borders chunks of iceberg broken off a West Antarctica glacier. The melting of the region’s ice sheet could allow the bedrock to rise, sloughing water into the ocean. Credit: NASA

Climate change

Antarctic rocks on the rebound could raise sea level much more than expected

When the ice covering the west of the continent disappears, the bedrock could rise up and shove extra water into the ocean.
Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve, Costa Rica

Mist wafts through the trees at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Preserve in Costa Rica. Cloud forests around the world are threatened by development, wood collection and climate change. Credit: Stefano Paterna/Alamy

Conservation biology

Forests that float in the clouds are drifting away

Tropical cloud forests are safe havens for a vast range of creatures and plants, but they are under siege around the globe.
Illustration of a brown dwarf

A rapidly spinning brown dwarf (pictured, artist’s impression) tends to have narrow atmospheric bands; the faster the spin, the thinner the bands. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Astronomy and astrophysics

Dim stars that have failed at fusion are masters of spin

Three brown dwarfs whirl on their axes at a dizzying rate that might be close to the celestial speed limit for these bodies.
Aerial photograph of beef cattle standing at the Texana Feeders feedlot in Floresville, Texas

Large-scale facilities such as this feedlot in Floresville, Texas, help to meet the global appetite for beef and other red meat, which remains strong despite the growing consumption of chicken and fish. Credit: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg/Getty

Agriculture

Meat lovers worldwide pay climate little heed

People are eating more poultry and fish — but they’re not giving up their hamburgers.
Midshipmen at dining table eat in formation, CIRCA 1900

Midshipmen in the United States in around 1900. A study found that body-mass index, a gauge of obesity, has increased with the generations during the twentieth century. Credit: Buyenlarge/Getty

Metabolism

A century of US data documents obesity’s racially skewed rise

An analysis also finds that obesity is common at a much younger age among people born in the early 1980s than those born in the late 1950s.
Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing

Search

Quick links