About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
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This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Angry Birds Battle through Song

Did you ever hear a bird sing in your yard and then hear a far away bird seem to sing a reply? Scientists have now concluded that their songs aren’t to fill the air with heavenly music, but more like a karaoke-style battle to see who can sing the song the best.

"Song-sharing, where birds sing a smaller number of their species' greatest hits, is a more aggressive and attention-seeking behaviour. It's also a behaviour most often displayed by belligerent older males," explains Janet Lapierre, a visiting biologist from the University of Western Ontario (UWO).

Research conducted at Queen's University Biological Station (QUBS) suggests that song-sharing amongst song sparrow populations is actually an aggressive behavior, akin to flinging insults back and forth.

Older male sparrows were the most likely to engage in more aggressive or attention-seeking song-sharing bouts, suggesting that older males may be more willing or able to risk conflict and may also have more experience in which songs are effective signals in their local area.

“The novelty of this study was that we looked at how birds use songs rather than just examining the content of their repertoires,” says Dr. MacDougall-Shackleton, a biology professor from the University of Western Ontario and a regular QUBS researcher. 

These findings were recently published in Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology.

The above story is reprinted with editorial adaptations from materials provided by Queen's University.
Journal Reference:
Janet M. Lapierre, Daniel J. Mennill, Elizabeth A. MacDougall-Shackleton. Spatial and age-related variation in use of locally common song elements in dawn singing of song sparrows Melospiza melodia: old males sing the hits. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 2011; DOI: 10.1007/s00265-011-1223-1

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