That’s one way to flirt.
Most birds prefer to serenade their mates with melodious chirps and trills but the male bellbird has an unorthodox method of attracting cluckbuddies. It emits an ear-splitting titter directly into the face of a female bellbird, with the potential to deafen the poor thing.
A denizen of the northeast Amazon, the white bellbird’s call — which has been compared to a jackhammer or an eight-lane highway — was recently named the world’s loudest, according to a study published by the journal Current Biology.
The siren-like shriek clocks in at 125 decibels — louder than a rock concert, locomotive or a jet engine taking off. The decibel level is so piercing to the human ear, in fact, that it can actually inflict pain, according to a Yale Environmental Health and Safety handout.
And, perhaps, not just to the listener.
The white bellbird has “this really ripped, washboard stomach,” Mario Cohn-Haft, Ph.D., one of the authors of the study, told the New York Times. He hypothesized that “if they didn’t have that kind of protection,” perhaps “their guts would blow out” when they belted out their tinnitus-inducing tune.
The white bellbird’s ability to produce such a call evolved from its habit of swallowing fruit whole and digesting it throughout the day, before spitting out the seeds, said Jeffrey Podos, Ph.D., study co-author and biology professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Over time, their beaks adapted to open wider than 90 degrees to accommodate their large meals, which had the added effect of amplifying their trill like a trumpet or bullhorn.
It’s unknown exactly for whom the bellbird tolls. Although they’ve been observed dialing up their “siren song” several decibels whenever a potential mate is nearby — potentially damaging their hearing.
Unsurprisingly, their marks might not be too keen on this flirting tactic. Researchers “never saw copulation,” Podos said. Although, he admits the birds they saw “might’ve just been losers.”