Fifty years of bird song research: a case study in animal behaviour

  title={Fifty years of bird song research: a case study in animal behaviour},
  author={Peter J. B. Slater},
  journal={Animal Behaviour},
  • P. Slater
  • Published 1 April 2003
  • Biology, Psychology
  • Animal Behaviour
The growth of bird song research over the past half century has been catalysed by both technical and theoretical advances. The study of mechanisms has largely moved to the neurobiological level, where work on bird song has blossomed. At the behavioural level, development and function have been the prime foci of attention, and I briefly review the advances in these two areas. But, looking forwards, the well is far from dry: I suggest a few topics on which I expect that papers will appear in the… 

Kiwis to pewees: the value of studying bird calls

While studies of song are necessarily taxonomically restricted, research into calls can take advantage of the rich diversity of morphology, ecology and behaviour found across all lineages of birds.

Singing in space and time: the biology of birdsong

This chapter will provide an overview over how song is controlled and acquired, how and what kind of information is coded in different singing styles and to what features receivers attend to, thereby showing how structure is linked to function.

Author ' s personal copy Function and Mechanisms of Song Learning in Song Sparrows *

Within the primates, vocal learning appears to be confined to a single species, humans, and its presence in the authors' species is the second reason for the fascination with song learning in the songbirds: its many parallels with human language learning.

Bird ringing as a tool for behavioural studies

This review highlights the pivotal role that ringing will continue to play in developing knowledge and understanding of animal behaviour and the importance of an organised ringing scheme combining the efforts of volunteer ringers and scientists.

Ecological Validity and the Study of Procedural and Episodic Memory Function in Songbirds.

It is suggested that the hippocampus in zebra finches plays a role in "episodic-like characteristics of song perception," making these birds exceptional models for examining functional overlaps among memory systems central to discrete, ecologically relevant behaviors.

Vocal Communication in Birds

Selection , domestication , and the emergence of learned communication systems

A computational model of the evolutionary history of the Bengalese finch is presented which demonstrates how an increase in song complexity and increased influence from early learning could evolve spontaneously as a result of domestication.



The significance of song repertoires: The Beau Geste hypothesis

Bird song learning: causes and consequences

It is suggested that cultural evolution, geographical variation and dialect boundaries, being features of populations rather than individuals, are epiphenomena without functional significance in themselves, but song learning may confer advantages stemming from the copying process itself, in interactions with neighbours and in matching song to habitat.

What songbirds teach us about learning

With the discovery and investigation of discrete brain structures required for singing, songbirds are providing insights into neural mechanisms of learning and are addressing such basic issues in neuroscience as perceptual and sensorimotor learning, developmental regulation of plasticity, and the control and function of adult neurogenesis.

Three models of song learning: evidence from behavior.

Research on avian song learning has traditionally been based on an instructional model, as exemplified by the sensorimotor model of song development, but an alternative model based on memorization by selection postulates a system of innate neural templates that facilitate the recognition and rapid memorization of conspecific song patterns.

Alternative motor patterns in chaffinch song

Suggested experimental designs for song playbacks

Female visual displays affect the development of male song in the cowbird

A visual display by females, a wing stroke, that is elicited by specific vocalizations is described, which provides the first evidence of the tutorial role of male–female interactions during song ontogeny and clearly implicate visual stimulation in song learning.

Vocal syntax development in the white-crowned sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys).

To investigate whether song syntax-phrase number and order--is such a feature in the white-crowned sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys), the authors tutored males of this species with separate phrase models and birds learned and assembled these into songs of species-typical sequence, suggesting that syntax is to some degree pre-encoded in white-CrownedSparrows.

Action-Based Learning: a New Form of Developmental Plasticity in Bird Song

Evidence from three species of sparrow is reviewed which suggests that song sharing among territorial males, a common form of vocal plasticity usually thought to solely involve memory-based learning, may be the result of action- based learning.

Central control of song in the canary, Serinus canarius

Central nervous pathways controlling bird son in the canary are traced using a combination of behavioral and anatomical techniques and direct connections were found onto the cells of the motor nucleus innervating the syrinx, the organ of song production.