World’s Loudest Bird Sounds Like a Sci-Fi Klaxon

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.”

A researcher at the National Institute of Amazonian Research, Mario Cohn-Haft, and a bird vocalization specialist at the University of Massachusetts, Jeff Podos, recorded the white bellbird’s extraordinary pipes in action, and published their findings in the journal Current Biology. In the summary for the paper (via Laughing Squid), Podos and Cohn-Haft note that the white bellbird’s call is nine decibels (dB) louder than that of the next loudest bird, the screaming piha. The white bellbird’s call also produces three times more sound pressure than the piha’s.

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.”

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?

What do you think of this white bellbird’s call? Does it remind you of any particular klaxon you’ve heard? Let us know in the comments.

Images: Discover Magazine 

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