Songbirds originated 50 million years ago in Australia. While humans like the sound of bird song, it isn't meant for pleasure. It's functional. Birds sing when they migrate, to stake their territory or to attract a mate. About 4,000 species of birds have developed vocal chords that are capable of singing. Some have beautiful voices, other birds, like the crow, screech and yelp.
They are the namesakes of a Beatles song, but Blackbirds have a wonderful song of their own. Like Nightingales, it is the male Blackbird that sings. They are all black except for orange rings around the eyes. They only sing in warm climates and the oldest recorded Blackbird lived for 20 years. They are the national bird of Sweden.
Canaries are wild or domestic birds with a sweet song. They are lively and love orchard habitats. The birds' large populations on the Canary Islands gave them their name, and yellow canaries lent their name to the color "canary yellow." They are members of the Finch family and sound very much like the Goldfinch when they sing.
The Finch name refers to a very big category of birds. A lot of different birds are mistaken for Finches, but true Finches have 12 tail feathers and live in the Northern Hemisphere and Africa. Darwin used Finches to help prove his theory of natural selection on the Galapagos Islands, except that the birds, called Darwin's Finches, were actually sparrows.
Linnets are European birds in the Finch family. They are brown with red breast coloring. They form groups when they migrate and like to live in shrubs and hedges. These tiny birds have become endangered in recent years because of decreased habitats in Europe, where city areas are growing very quickly.
Mockingbirds are often tropical in origin, although some live in Northern climates. They are small grey or colorful birds and are fierce protectors of their nests and habitats. Scientists aren't sure what their special talent is for, but Mockingbirds are especially good at mocking or mimicking the song of other species of birds.
Mourning Doves prefer warmer climates. They can tolerate Canada during the summer and Mexico during the winter and the United States all year round. They are often mistakenly called Turtle Doves, because of their similar coloring. They have a low, sad cry, hence their name. They're fast fliers and can reach speeds of up to 55 mph.
There are many Mynah species in Asia and India, although they've been introduced to North America as well. They are either brown, white or black in color and are very friendly, loud and territorial birds. Just like the Mockingbird, they have a natural talent for imitating the song of other birds.
The nightingale is the national bird of Iran and Bangladesh. They sing primarily at night and at dawn. For centuries, people thought it was the female bird singing, it's actually the male trying to attract his mate. If he sings at night, he's looking for a lady. If he's singing in the morning, he's defending his territory. The nightingale has one of the most impressive songs in the world.
Ravens are symbols of bad luck and death. They're commonly called crows and are one of the smartest species of birds. Scientists estimate that they are as intelligent as wolves. Even though it isn't said anymore, people used to call a group of ravens an "unkindness." "The Raven" is a very famous poem by Edgar Allan Poe.
Robins have cheerful red breasts and black bodies. They are in the Thrush family, like Blackbirds, and sing beautifully into the evening, like Nightingales do. They eat fruits, berries, grubs and worms and their eggs are a lovely pale blue color that, like "canary yellow," has given the "Robin's egg blue" color its name.
Swallows are long, streamlined birds that hunt near water. They can fly up to 24 mph and snag insects and other food out of the air. They build nests and live in colonies to form families. Swallows are important for sailors because they are sometimes the first birds seen as a ship approaches shore. They symbolize home and family.
The Turtle Dove, a gray and brown bird, eats shoots and seeds. It lives in Europe and the Northern Hemisphere during the warmer seasons and migrates to Africa for the winter to stay warm. During the summer months, Turtle Doves lay little white eggs in pairs and are known for their flimsy and low-lying nests.