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Bird song question

  1. Sep 28, 2008 #1

    fluidistic

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    Hi everybody,
    Last night I woke up with a weird question (maybe at 4 am) and the strange fact is that I remember it till now. My question is : say you see a bird borning and the bird only knows you and noone else nor even listen to a single other bird in its life.
    Can you teach it to whistle a bit differently that it would whistle if it was born between other birds? For example if the bird species whistle like " iiii iiii, iiii iiii", is it possible to change it for "iiii iiii iiii, iiii iiii iiii"? I guess it depends of the specy. So is that possible to change the "instinct" or maybe it's not an instinct but an asset property, of any bird? Because I know that some birds can just imitate sounds and they can learn easily, but other's don't seems to have this facility of learning. Just curious about it.
     
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  3. Sep 29, 2008 #2

    jim mcnamara

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    Bird song is somewhat plastic, or changeable. There are diaclects within species such that marine crow from the West Coast of the USA do not understand marine crow
    lanaguage as "spoken" by the same species elsewhere.

    See:
    Nature's Music by Peter Marler, Hans Slabbekoorn, Hans Willem Slabbekoorn

    There are other species that are mimics - the nightingale, mockingbird. They learn other species bird calls and which ones they learn depends on their neighbors.
     
  4. Sep 29, 2008 #3
    No actually there are different learning habits associated with different birds
    Some learn on their way to adult hood, these usually are bird like the mocking bird. They keep developing their songs from their experiences
    Some learn from birth, and it is a natural from hanging around its buddies
    In general, birds do not usually change, their voice habits
     
  5. Sep 29, 2008 #4

    harborsparrow

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    I raise Java finches (pets). The males have a special, complex song called the "enticing call"; it is pretty and lasts about 30 seconds and uses both their vocal chords. It is apparently quite difficult to learn.

    The young males can only learn it, by listening to another male sing it, and during a certain period of their youth. I can't remember exactly, but it's something like a 3-week period starting from when they are about 6 weeks old.

    If there is no male bird around at that time to learn from, they will attempt to sing whatever complex singing-like sound that they hear. If only a bird of different species can be heard, they will attempt THAT song instead.

    Once they have "grown up", they will continue using whatever enticing song they learned during their youth. So failing to expose young males to the correct song really harms them (and some breeders don't know this).
     
  6. Sep 29, 2008 #5

    fluidistic

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    Thank you everyone! Very interesting. So for the majority of birds it seems that it's possible to input a song on them. At least when they are young enough.
    This implies that the form bird's song for each specy is not an instinct but a asset property. Similar to the human's languages.
     
  7. Sep 29, 2008 #6

    atyy

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    Doupe AJ, Kuhl PK.
    Birdsong and human speech: common themes and mechanisms.
    Annu Rev Neurosci. 1999;22:567-631.

    Not free unfortunately, but the abstract is on pubmed.org
     
  8. Sep 30, 2008 #7

    jim mcnamara

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    Good. Provide a citation after say the year 2000 from a refereed journal. Otherwise not good.
     
  9. Sep 30, 2008 #8

    Borek

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    There are birds that mimic others (jay does), there are birds that do not (sparrows don't) - I can be missing something, but that sounds like different learning habits? Or at least different learning abilities, but these must lead to different habits?
     
  10. Sep 30, 2008 #9
    I was watching a show on TV. They had a bird from the rain forest, who when frightened, and to ward off attackers mimicked, the most scary sound it knew. A chainsaw. And it sounded just like one. I was amazed.
     
  11. Sep 30, 2008 #10

    Borek

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    Have you watched The Life of Birds by David Attenborough? If not, look for the 6th episode.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Life_of_Birds#6._.22Signals_and_Songs.22

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superb_Lyrebird

    Car alarm, two kinds of camera shutter (with and without winder) and chainsaw - including starting sequence and wood cutting. Simply incredible.
     
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