Say It In Song: Researcher Deciphers Meaning Within Bird Communication

By | December 22, 2008 many people bird song can herald the coming of spring reveal what kind of bird is perched nearby or be merely an unwelcome early morning intrusion. But to Sandra Vehrencamp Cornell professor of neurobiology and behavior bird song is a code from which to glean insights into avian beh Vehrencamp records bird songs and then plays them back to birds of the same species to decipher strategies that various species use to attract mates and resolve territorial disputes. The technique allows researchers to study birds reactions to songs when such elements as overlapping vocalization finer song structural features and the type of song played back are varied. “You kind of feel like you re talking to the bird ” Vehrencamp said. …  She found for example that song sparrows in southern California can interpret some forms of playback as “fighting words ” because they often resolve conflict by singing the same type of song — known as song-type matching — back to one another. “They get really mad ” Vehrencamp said. “They treat playback like it s another bird and will sometimes come right up to the speaker.”

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