Wrens are one of my favourite birds. I'm always amazed how such a small bird can make such a loud noise when singing.....which got me thinking; just exactly HOW does a tiny bird like a wren manage to make so loud and so long a sound? How do they manage to hold enough air in their tiny lungs?
Do they sing on both the out and in breath? Do they do 'circular breathing' like some jazz musicians and digeridoo players? What is the secret? Anyone know?
Its a fairly technical process but in essence - birds have a sound box that is different to ours. It is called a syrinx. It contains membranes that vibrate as air is passed across them. This produces the noise. The syrinx is located further down than the voice box in humans and can produce a huge variety of different sounds.
The muscles around the srynx allow the birds to produce the variety of notes and sounds. The more complex the muscle structure, the more complex the song that can be produced. In fact, it is believed that the syrinx muscles are 'super muscles' allowing incredibly quick reactions and movement.
It would therefore stand to reason that a wren probably has a fairly advanced and complex syrinx to produce the level of noise and complexity that it does.
With regards the length of the song, they actually take a huge number of breaths as they sing. These are timed to the syllables and are effectively a number of mini breaths - in a wren I would guess up to 30 breaths per second.
And at the end of the day, Wrens just have great big gobs!
Hope that helps
Thanks Matthew - I guessed you would be able to shed light on it.