January 15, 2013
Female songbirds sometimes have a hard time separating truly worthy male crooners from the fly-by-night wannabees.
BOB HIRSHON (host):
Untrustworthy tunesters. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.
People sometimes go to great lengths to impress a potential mate, only to become a less than stellar partner later on. But we’re not the only ones who engage in false advertising when it comes to romance – some animals do it too. Female zebra finches prefer males who sing a lot, perhaps assuming that this reflects good genes.
(sfx: zebra finch song)
But according to a new study, once females pair up with a prodigious songster, he often starts to slack off. University of Exeter behavioral ecologist Morgan David explains that singing takes a lot of energy.
MORGAN DAVID (University of Exeter):
And some males will stop singing because some can’t afford to continue doing it.
He says a female can only discover whether her mate’s song is all bluster after they’ve been together for a while, so she may be better served by considering his other qualities as well. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the science society.