Vertebrates communicate through a wide variety of sounds, but few mechanisms of sound production, besides vocalization, are well understood. During high-speed dives, male trainbearer hummingbirds (Lesbia spp.) produce a repeated series of loud snaps. Hypotheses for these peculiar sounds include the birds employing their elongated tails and/or striking their wings against each other. Each snap to human ears seems like a single acoustic event, but sound recordings revealed that each snap is actually a couplet of impulsive, atonal sounds produced ∼13 ms apart. Analysis of high-speed videos refutes these previous hypotheses, and furthermore suggests that this sonation is produced by a within-wing mechanism – each instance of a sound coincided with a distinctive pair of deep wingbeats (with greater stroke amplitude, measured for one display sequence). Across many displays, we found a tight alignment between a pair of stereotyped deep wingbeats (in contrast to shallower flaps across the rest of the dive) and patterns of snap production, evidencing a 1:1 match between these sonations and stereotyped kinematics. Other birds including owls and poorwills are reported to produce similar sounds, suggesting that this mechanism of sound production could be somewhat common within birds, yet its physical acoustics remain poorly understood.

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