Birds of Indian Subcontinent

Song learning in montane white-crowned sparrows: from whom and when

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:1988
Authors:Baptista, LF, Morton, ML
Journal:Animal Behaviour
Date Published:1988
ISBN Number:0003-3472
Keywords:Amandava, Amandava amandava, Emberizidae, Estrildidae, Melospiza, Melospiza lincolnii, Zonotrichia, Zonotrichia leucophrys
Abstract:White-crowned sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys, adults and nestlings were colour-banded and songs of mature progeny recorded to determine whether songs were learned from fathers, age peers or adults other than fathers. Four out of 17 sons and daughters sang the same song types as their fathers, indicating that transmission of song from fathers to their young (vertical transmission) is not the norm. Since juveniles do not sing full (‘crystallized’) songs until they are older, transmission from juvenile to juvenile (horizontal) is unlikely on the breeding grounds but may occur if siblings migrate together and hear each other's song on the wintering grounds. The usual mode of transmission is via other adults (oblique). Birds learn one or two songs prior to or during migration, and upon settling on the breeding area the following year may utter only one theme, that which matches the neighbours' songs during matched countersinging bouts. A bird's song dialect is thus not necessarily an indicator of its birthplace. One wild and one laboratory-reared bird sang songs of a Lincoln sparrow, Melospiza lincolnii, and a strawberry finch, Amandava amandava, respectively. These data and data from field playback studies lend support to the notion that interspecific terrioriality may lead to acquisition of alien song for use in matched countersinging during territorial encounters with allospecific neighbours.
Short Title:Animal Behaviour
Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith