The mechanism of sound production in the collared dove Streptopelia decaocto was studied to test the validity of the 'whistle' model and to analyze the role of vocal tract resonances. In this study, the vocalizations of six male adult doves were recorded both in normal air and in a mixture of 80 % helium and 20 % oxygen (heliox). Depending on the way in which the syrinx operates, the spectral structure of the vocalizations is expected to show specific changes in heliox. The effects of heliox differed substantially depending on the type of vocal element. Except for a significant decrease in amplitude, unmodulated elements, i.e. elements with a constant frequency, were relatively unaffected by heliox. In contrast, modulated elements, i.e. elements with an abrupt increase in frequency, showed a gradual increase in frequency with increasing helium concentration. This specific increase in frequency stopped when the modulation frequency was 1.5 times the base frequency, even when the helium concentration was increased further. In some individuals, a frequency band of half the base frequency was also observed. In general, the proportion of modulated elements also showed a significant decrease. The lack of change in the fundamental frequency of the unmodulated elements and in the base frequency of the modulated elements indicates that these vocalizations are not produced like a whistle. It is more likely that they are the result of vibration of the syringeal membranes. Generally, vocal tract resonances do not play an active role in the modification of vocalizations, although they might enhance the fundamental frequency passively. The results suggest that the almost pure tonal vocalizations are produced as such in the syrinx and undergo limited modification when passing through the vocal tract. The effect of heliox on the modulation frequency suggests (1) that different sound-producing mechanisms may underlie different types of vocalizations, and (2) that resonance properties of the vocal system may be involved in the production or modification of the modulation frequency.

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