How do birds learn to sing?

Like humans, young birds learn to sing by listening to the voices of adults. Now, researchers have shown for the first time that they could teach young sparrows in the wild how to sing a new tune. These birds then passed the new songs on to the next generation



Conventional experiments of vocal erudition in birds have been conducted in the laboratory. The researchers in the new study focused their attention on Savannah Sparrows living at Bowdoin Scientific Station on Kent Island.


Researchers from the University of Windsor, University of Guelph, and Williams College, developed a new type of loudspeaker that is programmable, solar powered, light activated, and weatherproof. The speakers permitted them to transmit adult songs with distinct aural marks for the wild sparrows over coaching sessions that lasted for months. Over a six-year period between 2013 and 2018, they experimentally trained five of Savannah Sparrows, from the time they hatched to adulthood.


 

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