“Sing me a complex song or forget it”

Seems that variable weather makes some birds smarter and gives them an advantage when singing for a potential mate. Mockingbirds living in mixed weather climate sing more elaborate songs.

St. Lucia white breasted thrasher

St. Lucia white breasted thrasher

Why do males sing complex songs?

To impress the females, male mockingbirds sing up a complex tune. The more intricate, the more intelligent the bird the more likely he is to get a mate. Superior singing skills and more smarts give these males a leg up in the survival game in harsher climates.

Carlos Botero, a researcher from the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in North Carolina, led the study. He and his colleagues compared recordings of 29 species of mockingbird, studying patterns in their songs including the number of different notes, the number of syllables and the birds’ abilities to mimic other sounds. Researcher, Carlos Botero Carlos Botero’s studied song recordings.  His team then compared the birds’ habitats to the patterns in their songs.The more complex the habitat, the more complex the song.A bird like the St Lucia’s white-breasted thrasher sings a simple song. It lives in an environment that does not change much year around. Where as a Northern Cardinal that survives all the changes in his northern temperate climate would be expected to have a more complex song.

To fully test male bird IQ, male birds’ song complexity was studied in many different countries during the bird’s breeding season. As a result of this study, some key gaps in the library of birdsong at Cornell University, are now filled.


Excerpts courtesy of ScienceNews.com

For some birds, chancy climates mean better singers
A survey of mockingbird species links variable environment and song complexitySusan Milius, May 21, 2009

Image courtesy of OasisMarigot.com/St.Lucia white-breasted-thrasher


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