This is a rather prosaic subject but, here goes, what’s the difference between a song and a call?
Like many things, it seems pretty straight forward until you get into the depths of the subject. So let’s rise above the detail.
Consider the farmyard fowl. A cockerel, cock or rooster crowing is an example of song, delivered by a male bird to advertise his presence to other males (Stay away, I’m here) and females (Come closer, I’m here). And all those clucking noises are calls – maybe just to keep contact with other members of the flock, or to express the view that there aren’t any predators around or to keep the chicks in line.
Likewise, proper wild birds use songs, usually by males, to defend their territories and attract mates, and they employ calls in a variety of ways.
So, just to revisit the two species I have discussed so far, the Great Tit has a song;
but it also has a variety of calls;
And the Song Thrush has a wonderful song:
but also has a variety of calls
Most birds have calls and they can be of a variety of functional types; alarm calls, begging calls, flight calls, contact calls etc. These are everyday vocalisations, often made by both sexes, usually short in duration and simple in form and often made through the year. They are often innate – hard-wired and not learned.
Songs, however, tend to be sung by males (not always), to defend territories or mates and to attract mates, and are usually (not always) heard in the breeding season. They are often learned rather than innate.
That’s as far as we need go with this for now. The spring, which is creeping up on us, is the time to learn to identify, but also to appreciate, bird song, and that’s what I will concentrate on in the blogs ahead.
And many thanks for the messages of appreciation that I’ve had so far.