December 20, 2022

How Do Birds Hear?

Birds have an incredible sense of hearing, which allows them to communicate with each other, navigate their environment, and even detect predators. In this article, we will explore how birds hear and how this sense is crucial to their survival in the wild.

The Anatomy of a Bird’s Ear

Like humans, birds have two ears, one on each side of their head. However, a bird’s ear is quite different from a human ear. A bird’s ear is located on the side of its head, near the eye, and is covered by a small, featherless patch of skin called the tympanum.

The Anatomy of a Bird's Ear

Inside the tympanum, there is a small, ear-shaped structure called the columella, which is connected to the middle ear. The columella is responsible for transmitting sound waves from the tympanum to the middle ear, where they can be processed by the brain.

Unlike humans, who have three bones in their middle ear (the malleus, incus, and stapes), birds have only one bone, called the columella ossicle. This bone is much smaller and more flexible than the bones in a human ear, allowing birds to more easily detect high-frequency sounds.

How Birds Hear

Birds are able to hear a wide range of sounds, from very low-frequency to very high-frequency. This is due to their highly specialized ear anatomy and their ability to adjust the shape of their ear drum (tympanum) in response to different frequencies of sound.

For example, when a bird hears a low-frequency sound, such as the call of another bird, the tympanum stretches out, allowing the sound waves to more easily reach the columella. On the other hand, when a bird hears a high-frequency sound, such as the rustling of leaves or the movement of a predator, the tympanum contracts, protecting the inner ear from damage.

Birds also have a highly developed auditory system, which allows them to process and interpret the sounds they hear. This system includes the auditory nerve, which carries sound information from the ear to the brain, and the auditory cortex, which is responsible for analyzing and interpreting the sounds.

How Birds Hear

The Importance of Hearing in Birds

Hearing is an essential sense for birds, as it plays a vital role in their survival in the wild. For example, birds use their sense of hearing to:

  • Communicate with each other: Birds use a wide range of vocalizations to communicate with each other, including calls, songs, and chirps. These vocalizations are used to attract mates, establish territory, and warn of potential dangers.
  • Navigate their environment: Birds use their sense of hearing to locate food, water, and other resources, as well as to navigate their surroundings. For example, some birds use the sounds of waves or other water sources to locate bodies of water.
  • Detect predators: Birds use their sense of hearing to detect the presence of potential predators, such as snakes, mammals, or other birds. This allows them to take evasive action or issue a warning to other birds in the area.


Birds have a highly developed sense of hearing, which is essential to their survival in the wild. Their ear anatomy, including the tympanum and columella, allows them to detect a wide range of sounds and adjust to different frequencies. In addition, their auditory system allows them to process and interpret the sounds they hear, which is crucial for communication, navigation, and predator detection.

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