Researchers working in the Amazon recently recorded the world’s loudest bird, the white bellbird, and it sounds like a klaxon you’d hear aboard a spaceship during battle. And while the white bellbird’s sci-fi call doesn’t sound deafening in the clip below, it’s apparently quite an experience from up close, where it’s louder than “a chainsaw operating [from] three feet away.”
According to Discover Magazine, the white bellbird’s call can reach 125 dB, which, for reference, is roughly as loud as an aircraft taking off, a train passing by, or a very loud concert. After 125 dB, “noise actually starts to get painful”
and is “essentially [on par with] weaponized sound.”
Bird expert & #Fulbright Scholar Dr. Jeff Podos will journey into the remote mountains of Brazil next fall to investigate how the tiny Amazonian bellbird produces its incredibly loud songs. https://t.co/5SuGKLfQvh pic.twitter.com/ekNzPAu3DM
— The Fulbright Program (@FulbrightPrgrm) May 11, 2018
The pain aspect of this level of sound is illustrated by the observation that female white bellbirds, who are on the receiving end of the loud calls, are willing to sit about 12 feet from the males as they do their thing, where, according to Podos and Cohn-Haft, “[they] would experience potentially damaging effective dB values at the ear, of ∼104 dB….” The co-authors aren’t certain why the females would sacrifice the quality of their hearing, although they assume the ear damage is worth it to find the fittest mate.
Speaking of which, birds belonging to the Cotingidae family—which both the piha and bellbird belong to—are known for their intense sexual selection, which is the reason their calls are the loudest in the world. Who knew the sound of screaming klaxon could be so attractive?
Images: Discover Magazine