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Everyone wants to live the boombox scene from Say Anything, where a young John Cusack serenades his love to the strains of Peter Gabriel. When the film came out in 1989, a million hearts gained their latest teen god. But you know what’s louder, and statistically more effective in the wild? The mating call of the white bellbird (Procnias albus), a bright neotropical species from the Amazon that shrieks for potential mates at a startling 125 decibels. For reference, the human pain threshold is 85 decibels.
We’re not saying you climb up a tree and start screaming at your darling’s bedroom window. Nonetheless, one can’t help but admire this little bird’s skill in making its presence felt. Researchers were surprised at the thickness of the bird’s well-defined abdominal wall (abs, it’s always abs), which they suspected was behind this incredible set of pipes. The find was published in journal Cell Biology last month, and it stipulates that the male bellbird’s mating call is twice as loud the screaming piha, another tropical bird which has held the record since 2004.
Jeff Podos, a biologist at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst co-authored the study with Mario Cohn-Haft, curator of birds at the Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia in Manaus. They found that the male bellbirds had a specific courtship ritual: to pivot on branches and blast their mating call directly at a female’s face. The close range could cause hearing damage, which is probably why the yellowish-green ladies—who don’t sing at all—fly off to a reasonable distance before the males begin. The calls are of two types: a gutting scream, and a shorter (and louder) two-tone call.
According to the IUCN, the white bellbird is a ‘least concern’ animal endemic to the forests of Brazil, French Guiana, Guyana, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Bolivia and Venezuela. This is the first study into its mating call. With a decibel level louder than howler monkeys and even chainsaws, we reckon it’ll be a while since it finds a worthy competitor.
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