Tuesday 28 February 2012

FOTD #3 - Song Sparrows, Cowbirds & Canaries

This is the last in a short series of facts I found while reading "Why Birds Sing" - I thought they were worth sharing and an ideal blog filler!

FOTD #3 (5 facts today):

Cowbirds have the largest known range in pitch of any bird!

Male cowbirds raised among canaries only imitate canaries; but surround them with female cowbirds and they will begin to wildly improvise, even though the females make no sound at all. The male changes its song as a response to social, not sonic, stimulation.

When an adult canary learns a new song, it grows new brain cells in the upper parts of its brain. This discovery led to discovery of adult neurogenesis and was the first time ever that new brain cells can grow in adult organisms leading to several similar studies in other animals (including humans).

If you inject a female canary with testosterone, it will start to sing like a male.

If you play a song sparrow one of his neighbour's songs, he will not reply with the same motif but with a different riff from the list that he shares with that neighbour. The researchers calles this repertoire matching, as opposed to type matching. But if the male sparro whears a completely alien song from a stranger sparrow, not a neighbour, then he will try to match that song with the closest type that he can! What for? Some have concluded that matching with a similar type of song is somehow more aggressive than trading common phrases with the neighbor. Song Sparrows seem to recognize these two ways of singing together.

Cool paintings of extinct birds.