When it comes to choosing a mate, female white bellbirds won’t settle for just any guy—they want a male that sings louder than any other bird in the world.
In a recent study, researchers measured the volume of white bellbirds’ mating songs and found the males belted out their loudest ones at about 125 decibels. That is close to the volume of the front row of a rock concert and more than 9 decibels louder than the loudest call of the previous record holder, the screaming piha, the researchers report in Current Biology.
Male bellbirds likely evolved their piercing calls to attract and impress females in the Amazon rainforest, where they live. The males alternate between two calls, as seen in the video above. The softer of the two still reaches an ear-jarring 117 decibels—louder than most jackhammers.
The singing males were hardly shy about their performances: When females perched next to them, the males switched to the louder of their two piercing songs and swiveled toward them, the researchers report. The din caused the females to jump back a little, but they still stayed within a few meters—near enough to check out their prospective mates up close, the researchers speculate. Next, the researchers plan to investigate how the males can make such loud sounds without damaging their own hearing and those of the admiring females.
Besides the screams, the male bellbirds display another weird trait the researchers suggest they evolved as a lure for females: long dangly nose ornaments called wattles, which make the males appear to be perpetually finishing up a lizard meal. Just as the females seem to like the songs, they may appreciate the wattles—showing that beauty really is in the eye (and ear) of the beholder.