Do Birds Have Ears?

We often love to listen to birds singing. The sound they make is relaxing to us, but if birds can sing, does this surely mean they can hear? This question leads to other interesting questions: Do birds have ears? Do they listen to the voices from the outer world? And if so, why is it so difficult for us to see them?

The answer to the question “do birds have ears” is “yes!” Birds communicate by sound and song, which means they must be able to listen at least to each other. Birds do have ears and they can hear, but not in the same way as we do. More interestingly, they can hear some frequencies, feel the vibrations, and they also have a better directional hearing. All these skills benefit them in many ways.

These features make them one of the most unique creatures. Have you ever wondered why that is so?

Do Birds Have Ears & Why Can’t We See Them?

Birds’ anatomy is unfamiliar to humans, even though there may be some similarities. Their organisms are built differently from ours and those of other mammals as well. So it’s not a miracle that their hearing aids don’t work in the same way as the rest of the animals.

So, do birds have ears? As we already mentioned, they have ears, but the reason we can’t see them is that they are enveloped with feathers, also known as auriculars. Tunnel-like openings are protected by feathery flaps that cover them, so they are barely visible. Birds’ ears are like holes that are present on both sides of their heads. Sometimes when the wind blows, they can be seen, and you may notice them if you try to. 

But if the answer to the question “do birds have ears?” is positive, then why can’t we see them? Why did mother nature need to cover them up and make their ears invisible? When you walk in a strong wind, your ears are bothered by the sound the wind makes, and you barely hear anything else. It works the same way for birds. 

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As they fly into the air most of the time, a strong gust of wind blows all over their bodies and it becomes almost impossible to pay attention to anything unless their ears are wrapped up and protected from the wind. Covered ears help them to fly and be able to hear natural sounds at the same time.

Can Birds Hear Well?

After understanding whether or not do birds have ears, let’s now compare our hearing system with birds. We human beings have an outer ear and a structure called an inner ear, but it isn’t the same for birds. They only have internal ears, which are also covered by feathers for protection.

But! It doesn’t mean that they can’t hear as well as we do. Even though they lack the outer ears that are responsible for the sound direction, they are nonetheless able to find the sound source, and they can do this even better than us!

Interestingly, naturalist and biologist Charles Darwin has found several ways in which birds convert complex vocals into melodic tunes. Yes, birds do not have regular ears like humans, but they have highly developed hearing aids, and they can catch voices of high quality. 

The frequency range of birds ranges from 100 Hz to 14,000 Hz, which is slightly narrower than ours (20 Hz to 20,000Hz). A few investigations have also revealed that birds can hear infrared sounds, which are sound frequencies less than 20Hz. The source of this skill in a bird, however, is yet unknown to scientists.

Birds can detect vibrations in the air, water, or land to sense their surroundings. This is because the sound is essentially a wave of pressure traveling through a medium like air, which moves our eardrums and causes nerve impulses to go to our brain. The sound is then sent on to the closest eardrum at a greater frequency than the original, allowing the birds to even recognize the direction of the music.

Why Are Ears and Hearing Important for Birds?

After understanding whether or not do birds have ears, now it’s time to find out something more important. There are a few reasons why well-developed hearing ability is a crucial part of birds’ lives. Some of the uses of hearing include:

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1. Coordination

It helps them communicate with their flock through the use of sound. The sounds of their parents will be recognized by the children, and it will help them coordinate in any situation. It would have been much more difficult for them to stay together if their ears were not covered.

2. Surviving

Like other animals, hearing is important for birds to survive in the wild. Birds use hearing to warn other birds of enemies and other kinds of danger, and they also make brief warning noises if there’s an oncoming threat that might put them in a bad situation.

3. Attracting mates

Hearing is also used in social interactions and communication. Many male birds sing to maintain their territories and attract mates. Vocalizations are also used by some birds to identify or find their partners.

4. Echolocation

Did you know that some birds can use echolocation to navigate around the dark caverns they live in? Moreover, it is well established that many owls locate and catch their prey through auditory cues. This feature helps them be well coordinated in different conditions of the wild world.

Which Bird Has A Unique Hearing System?

When it comes to exceptional hearing quality, we can’t pass without mentioning the owls. It is a widely known fact that they live and hunt during the night, so they rely completely on their vision and hearing ability to coordinate in the dark. 

An owl’s ears are odd in that they are asymmetrical, which means they are not aligned in the same way that ours are. Instead, one of their ears is higher than the other, causing noises from a single source to arrive at slightly different times in the bird’s ears. Their facial discs aid in the passage of sound into their ears, which is another distinguishing trait. The form of owl discs determines how sound is channeled to their ears.

Some owl species are particularly adept at catching sound and filtering it through their ears. These species include the Barn Owl and the Boreal Owl, both of which have changeable radar-shaped faces. Owls have the best senses in the animal realm, including vision.

How Do Aquatic Birds Hear?

So far, we’ve just looked at terrestrial birds, and they have a good sense of hearing in the air. But what about aquatic birds? They usually take a deep dive into the sea, so how do they have the ability to hear so attentively even under the water?

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Many aquatic birds have evolved a variety of adaptations to help them thrive in marine conditions. For example, when auks and murres dive, they have developed a unique mechanism that protects the internal ear from water entering it.

Did you know that king penguins also have a high vein structure? It allows them to manage water flow by adjusting pressure when they are loaded with blood. And a similar structure may be found in the outer ear, which stops water from flowing through.

Bonus Facts You Should Check Out!

  • Birds can hear sounds up to 20 kHz, which are high-pitched noises that humans cannot hear. But hearing is much more than just frequency; birds must be able to distinguish between distinct sounds. The study isn’t clear, but it’s plausible that birds have a lower hearing range than humans.
  • Birds are not sensitive to high frequencies since their hearing range is shorter than that of humans and other animals. Birds, like dolphins, insects, and bats, cannot hear ultrasonic noises.
  • Did you know that some bird species, like Robins and Blackbirds, can detect moving insects and worms underground without even seeing them? They can also detect them using the vibrations birds feel under the soil while probing their beaks into the ground. However, these birds have to move near the ground to find prey as they have hearing sensitivity at close ranges.

Bottom Line – Do Birds Have Ears?

So, do birds have ears? These beautiful creatures are part of our daily lives. We love them for singing and flying high in the clouds. Like humans, birds also have ears, and even more, they also have all five of the five senses we have; they can see, hear, touch, smell, and feel. Even though these senses are built and work differently, they are very well developed so that different birds can survive in different environments. 

Hopefully, you already understand that the answer to the question “Do birds have ears?” is positive. However, hearing ability plays a crucial part in allowing these incredible creatures to survive. Their ears are invisible, and many people think that they don’t even exist, but we should all agree that they do their job perfectly, and thanks to them, we can continue to listen to their singing in our gardens.

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