This audio story is brought to you by BirdNote, a partner of the National Audubon Society. BirdNote episodes air daily on public radio stations nationwide.


This is BirdNote.

Some believe the song of the Wood Thrush to be the most beautiful bird song in North America.

Others select the song of the Hermit Thrush.

Still others name the singing of the Swainson’s Thrush.

So how do thrushes create such fine music? The answer is that the birds have a double voice box.

Bird song emanates from a complex structure, unique to birds, called the syrinx. Syrinx is also the Greek word for the musical instrument we call panpipes, which have multiple pipes

It’s a fitting name for this essential part of a bird’s vocal anatomy. Because, like panpipes, birds have two separate pipes to sing with. A fine singer like a thrush can voice notes independently and simultaneously from each half of its syrinx, notes which blend brilliantly as ethereal, harmonious tones.

Fortunately for us, the results are lovely and haunting.



Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Song of the Wood Thrush [176144] recorded by G.A. Keller; song of Hermit Thrush [111136] by T.G. Sander; song of the Swainson’s Thrush [133353] recorded by G.A. Keller. Ambient recorded by C. Peterson M III T 48.

BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.

Written by Bob Sundstrom

Producer: John Kessler

Executive Producer: Chris Peterson

© 2015 Tune In to  June 2018  Narrator: Michael Stein

Stay abreast of Audubon

Our email newsletter shares the latest programs and initiatives.