Superb Lyrebird

Mimics the sounds of the rainforest, from Kookaburra to chain saw.

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The male superb lyrebird attracts females by probably the most extravagant animal call in the world. The male mimics all the sounds from the forest, includeing the calls of other birds. Ones brought up around manmade sounds impersonate the roar of a chainsaw, the screech of a car alarm and the click of camera shutters. Lyrebirds display this vocal virtuosity not just during the breeding season, implying the calls are not just about finding a mate but also used to defend territory. During the breeding season they use a display mound to sing from for hours, with the calls travelling up to a kilometre through the forest. The BBC video of the Lyrebird is very funny and was voted by viewers as their favourite Attenborough moment.

Location

The map shows the location of Healesville Sanctuary but the Lyrebird can be seen elsewhere in south-eastern Australia.

Tikal pyramids

Echoes off this pyramid create an unexpected chirping sound. But did the ancient Mayan’s deliberately design this sound effect?

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Tikal was the largest city of the ancient Mayan civilization and is probably Guatemala’s most famous tourist destination. If you stand at the bottom of the pyramid’s steps and clap your hands you get this incredible chirping sound. Echoes off buildings are common, but not ones that distort sound like this. Whether the pyramid was constructed to deliberately make this chirp is still a matter of debate. Reflections from the treads of the staircase are responsible for the echo. It’s down to geometry, later reflections are spaced further apart – all staircases have potential to chirp.

Location

Website. BTW The wildlife calls in this overgrown, runied city are also stunning: parrots, toucans and even howler monkeys.

Sources and credits

  1. Photo: Raymond Ostertag (c) some rights reserved
  2. Sound (c) sagejock

El Castillo, Chichen Itza

The echo from the staircase disorts the sound, creating a chirp like a bird, maybe even the sacred quetzal bird.

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Listen to the distorted echoes immediately after each handclap: they sound rather like a chirping bird.

The Kukulkan Pyramid in Chichen-Itza, known as “El Castillo” (the castle), is one of the seven new wonders of the world. It’s arguably the most spectacular and most frequently visited Mayan site in Mexico. If you stand at the bottom of the steps and clap your hands you get this incredible chirping sound.

Whether the pyramid was constructed to deliberately make this noise or it happened by chance is still a matter of debate among archaeologists. Reflections from the treads of the staircase are responsible for the echo being altered. The reason that a chirp like a bird is produced is because of geometry. The time between later reflections is longer than early reflections, causing the frequency of the echo to rapidly drop by about an octave.[2]

There is another sound effect here, but unfortunately as people are no longer allowed to climb the steps it’s hard to experience. Apparently, if you sit at the bottom of the stairs the sound of footsteps from people above you is like raindrops falling into a water-filled bucket rather than footsteps. The effect is caused by sound skimming the surface of the staircase. The sound reflects off the regular pattern of the stairs, creating a very distinctive effect [3].

Other acoustic phenomena

The Great Ballcourt is a huge semi-enclosed areas. If you clap your hands, the sound repeats a dozen times (this is a flutter echo) [3]. Also a whisper carries a huge distance if you speak from one of the raised areas [4].

Location

Wikipedia page.

Credits

  1. Photo: By Mariordo (Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0
  2. David Lubman: http://www.ocasa.org/MayanPyramid.htm
  3. The Acoustic Raindrop Effect at Mexican Pyramids: The Architects’ Homage to the Rain God Chac?, Calleja, JAC; Declercq, NF, ACTA ACUSTICA UNITED WITH ACUSTICA, 95(5) 849-56 (2009)
  4. http://www.luckymojo.com/esoteric/interdisciplinary/architecture/ecclesiastical/mayanacoustics.html
  5. Sound (c) robgodd