Birdsong Evolution
April 27, 2005 7:52 AM   Subscribe

How A Young Bird Learns its Song [+]
posted by dfowler (15 comments total)
Dear Dreamworld,
posted by dfowler at 7:55 AM on April 27, 2005

cool stuff
posted by evening at 8:18 AM on April 27, 2005

"We think the bursts of these neurons 'kick' the motor pathway that is producing a song, jarring it out of the routine and making it sing something new," Fee says.

That's pretty cool. I could use a kick like that.
posted by OmieWise at 8:31 AM on April 27, 2005

That's pretty cool. I could use a kick like that.
posted by OmieWise at 4:31 PM GMT on April 27 [!]

What, in the neurons? Certainly sir - what kind of boots would you like me to wear? Just lie here - you won't feel a thing... :-)

Seriously, though - it's an interesting article. Does it imply that the AFP slows down or deactivates as the bird gets older, though - i.e. so that they don't "improvise" a new song ater they've learned the old one?
What happens if the AFP is only partially disrupted - does it take the bird longer to learn?

Do the other birds pick on ones who don't sing from the same songsheet??
posted by Chunder at 8:44 AM on April 27, 2005

posted by gubo at 9:33 AM on April 27, 2005

Fascinating post. [this is good]. Thanks, dfowler (how appropriate)!
posted by Lynsey at 10:06 AM on April 27, 2005

Now we, too, know why the caged bird sings. Or at least how. Or something. Now the real question, as raised by Frankie Lymon, is why they sing so gay. dfowler, we await links.
posted by goatdog at 11:22 AM on April 27, 2005

This stuff fascinates me to no end. Thanks dfowler!

I finally purchased The Life of Birds this weekend, and the last program we watched was the one on bird songs. I was utterly floored when I heard the lyrebird of Australia mimic a camera's shutter and motor drive as well as chainsaws. I've heard of starlings mimicking car alarms and such, but this was an uncanny replication of machine sounds.

If you are even remotely interested in birds or animal behavior, I highly recommend the video.
posted by DakotaPaul at 11:56 AM on April 27, 2005

posted by dfowler at 12:16 PM on April 27, 2005

I remember that camera noise coming from that bird! Uncanny.

So does a mockingbird's AFP function differently? Or somehow wired slightly differently?
posted by Specklet at 12:21 PM on April 27, 2005

My cousin has a African Grey Parrot that mimics the sound of the toilet flushing and running. It's the most annoying and useless pet ever.

Great link, though!
posted by brand-gnu at 12:54 PM on April 27, 2005

This is really interesting. I heard bird this weekend sing the opening bars to Beethoven's sixth symphony. It was interesting listening the song slowly grow into a distorted version of the symphony until it was no longer recognizable. I need to figure out what species it was.
posted by Alison at 12:56 PM on April 27, 2005

My lito owned a macaw parrot and a one-eyed, three-legged, barkless dog. When a visitor came to the house, the macaw would bark until someone answered the door.

After lito died, the whole family converged on his house. Whenever the phone rang, the macaw would answer in my grandfather's voice, "Hello? Hello?" The bird also coughed and cleared his throat, just like lito.

It was like having a ghost around. First my mother and aunt would be scared and cry, because it sounded so much like him. But when they got used to it, I think the macaw helped them. It was like having one last touch from lito before they went on without him.

I think my aunt took the macaw back to California with her. I wonder if it still coughs like my lito and barks like a dog. Maybe it sounds like my cousins now.

Thanks for the post.
posted by breezeway at 1:08 PM on April 27, 2005

Off subject:

Alison, my guess is that it's either a starling or a mockingbird, depending on how urban your neighborhood in Pittsburgh is.

Mockingbirds tend to be pretty musical in their mimicking, but I've heard a starling imitate an electronic telephone ring exactly, and then say "Hello? Hello?".
posted by Specklet at 1:25 PM on April 27, 2005

I can vouch for experiences like Alison's. While living in Pasadena, I encountered birds that would belt out the first few stanzas from those annoying aftermarket car alarms. They'd carry it along for a while and then lose the "melody". It was novel the first time, but after a few more nights (they'd pick it up between midnight and 1 AM) it started to get annoying.

For now, over in my part of the Burgh, our birds just chirp!
posted by tss at 5:23 PM on April 27, 2005

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