Birds do look happy when they sing.
We know that birds live on a very tight energy budget. No wasted motions. Everything has to have a purpose for furthering survival and procreation, and this holds true for emotions also. We sense a bird's anxiety when a predator approaches a nest or the anger when for example the Robin in my backyard keeps chasing a Blue Jay through the trees away from her nest. But a feeling of happiness? Is it a luxury? Or a reward for a behavior that serves a purpose in promoting survival? Birds sing to attract mates or defend their territory. But does the act of singing cause the bird to feel pleasure, or put in another way, does it make the bird feel happy?
Several years ago I observed a Mockingbird perched on a tall post singing his heart out. While singing he would jump up, flap his wings and rise up several feet, drop back down, and do so again and again - a picture of pure exuberance! He seemed to be jumping for joy - so much happiness! That this was part of part of the male's courtship display did not diminish it.
I unearthed an interesting study addressing the question of happiness. Any pleasurable action in animals, mammals as well as birds, is associated with a release of dopamine in the brain. A study of Zebra Finches has shown that singing increases dopamine release, but only while courting a female. Undirected singing does not. So a male bird that sings incessantly to keep out competing males is probably more likely to have an elevated level of the cortisol, not dopamine, and feels stress rather than pleasure.
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Nice captures of a lot of happy birds here! I know that hearing the birds sing makes ME happy!!ReplyDelete
Great photos and an interesting post. I just know that singing birds give ME pleasure!ReplyDelete
Pat beat me to the punch. Their singing makes me happy also.:)Seriously...this is a great question. I love your photos and the information you found. Interesting post!ReplyDelete
I donðt know if they feel happy but we do when they do sing.... We get nicest pictures and we know that the spring is there ;-) Beautiful collection!ReplyDelete
I have to see seeing the birds singing makes me happy. What a great post, Hilke. I loved the photos of all the singing birds.ReplyDelete
This is very interesting. I do think about why birds sing sometimes--especially our Carolina Wrens seem to have different songs/sounds for when the cat's around or just singing in a tree. Great post.ReplyDelete
A beautiful post Hilke...a lovely series of your singing birds they bring real joy to the heart.ReplyDelete
Many thanks for sharing
they are probably "happy" when they sing. But , of course, we can´t know if it is the same feeling as we have. :)ReplyDelete
Nice collection of birds.
Wonderful captures Hilke! Any day that the birds sing is a wonderful day!ReplyDelete
Very interesting conceptual questions Hilke! Just the stuff I love. Can we reduce our emotions to a simple bio-chemical component? I suppose we are then confronted with a which came first the chicken or the egg situation. In this case what triggers the release of these chemicals? Pheromones perhaps, secreted by another animal? Is there a chemical chain reaction, sort of like dominoes falling, that is the cause and effect of our emotions? Is this...Fate? Awesome post Hilke, It has definitely made me happy!ReplyDelete
A very interesting post Hilke, and a question I've often wondered; do they feel happy when they sing.ReplyDelete
They certainly make me happy, along with everyone else here.
I'd hate to imagine a world without birdsong.
Fascinating question and research into it! Even if they are feeling stressed, they do look happy as they sing!ReplyDelete
Hi there - interesting questions about singing. I've read some stuff that suggest the aim of bird song is to alter the brain chemistry of the bird its "aimed" at - so it would make sense that it could impact ours as well.ReplyDelete
Whatever the reason, the birds do it for themselves - but I'm glad that I like it too!
CHeers Stewart M
Thank you for your thoughtful comments. There are some interesting philosophical questions about the connection between brain, emotions and feelings. In regards to humans it's worth reading the great neuroscientist Antonio Damasio's "The Feeling of What Happens - Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness", or any of his other books.ReplyDelete
What a great post..Singing makes me happy and I sure enjoyed viewing your photos!!ReplyDelete
HI Hilke...Oh my I can not remember the last time I saw a Bobalink!! There used to be so many here in the field next to me!!ReplyDelete
Love the photos and if they sing because there happy..which I hope they do ...thye make me happy anyway!!
Wonderful series and great captures.ReplyDelete
Interesting post Hilke. I guess it depends why they are singing ... anyway the world would be at loss without their choral sounds.ReplyDelete
I never knew. It really makes you wonder, no?ReplyDelete
Love the collection & they DO look happy :)
Enjoyed the pictures and the interesting insight as to why birds sing. Thought provoking blog.ReplyDelete
Interesting!! (Courting is always more fun than defending!) I didn't know there were studies that showed cortisol and dopamine production in birds. I'd like to read more about it.ReplyDelete
fabulous series, especially the Ovenbird, a species often heard but not seen.ReplyDelete