Aspects of syringeal mechanics in avian phonation

O.N. Larsen, F. Goller, J.L. van Leeuwen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The vocal organ of birds, the syrinx, is formed by modified cartilages of the trachea and bronchi. Recently, the use of thin, flexible endoscopes has made direct observation of the syrinx possible in situ. The effects of direct muscle stimulation on the syringeal aperture identified adductor and abductor muscles, confirming results from electromyographic studies. Endoscopic observations also revealed the dynamics of syringeal reconfiguration during phonation. In songbirds, phonation is initiated by rostrad movement and stretching of the syrinx together with simultaneous movement of the medial and lateral labia into the bronchial lumen where they form a narrow slot. The medial tympaniform membranes play a minor role in vocalization as their removal causes only small changes to song. In the tracheal syrinx of the pigeon, sound production is initiated by almost full adduction of the lateral tympaniform membranes into the tracheal lumen, where they bulge rostrally during phonation. Endoscopic observation combined with vibration detection by laser light suggests that the avian sound generating mechanism is a pulse-tone mechanism similar to that in the human larynx, with the labia (or lateral tympaniform membranes) forming a pneumatic valve. A numerical, two-dimensional model of the pigeon syrinx is proposed
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)478-481
Number of pages4
JournalActa zoologica sinica
Issue numberSuppl. 1
Publication statusPublished - 2006


Dive into the research topics of 'Aspects of syringeal mechanics in avian phonation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this