Fluttering Feathers Could Spawn New Species

Charles Darwin is most famous for his finches, from whose beaks he gleaned the idea that a single species might radiate into many. 

But he studied other attributes of birds, too—like the rhythmic sounds some species made during courtship, by fluttering, shaking or rattling their feathers together. <<sfx>> 

“Since Darwin there’s been this fact that birds produce sounds with wings and tails or flight feathers. So there’s species of manakins that do this sound, there’s hummingbirds that do this sound.”

Valentina Gómez-Bahamón is an evolutionary biologist and ornithologist at the Field Museum in Chicago. 

She and her team have now observed that non-vocal sound production phenomenon in another type of bird: the fork-tailed flycatcher. The researchers studied two groups of the birds in South America—and recorded the birds making these fluttering sounds with their wings during morning courtship rituals <<sfx>> and in combat between males <<sfx>>. 

One of the two

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Sounds made by fluttering feathers help fork-tailed flycatchers communicate

Sept. 22 (UPI) — Scientists have added another species to the list of birds that use sounds made with their feathers to communicate.

The male fork-tailed flycatcher, a passerine bird species native to the American tropics, creates unique sounds by fluttering its feathers at high frequencies, according to research published Wednesday in the journal Integrative and Comparative Biology.

“Back in the 1960’s, scientists noticed that they produce a distinctive sound only during a particular flight display,” researcher Christopher Clark, told UPI in an email.

“And those species of flycatcher in the genus Tyrannus, those that make the most distinctive sounds have the most distinctly shaped outer primary feathers,” said Clark, an associate professor of evolutionary biology at the University of California Riverside.

For the latest research, scientists conducted field studies to better understand both the mechanics of the feather fluttering and its communicative utility.

“We found that the birds

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