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Birdsong Bandwagon

July 10, 2008

A songbird species finds good nesting sites by listening for other birds in the neighborhood.


How birds listen for a good home. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

In human real estate, it’s all about location, location, location. But for songbirds called warblers, popularity may be the top issue. Oregon State University landscape ecologist Matthew Betts and his colleagues played recordings of male warblers singing in poor habitats, like clear-cut forests. When real males arrived in the spring, scouting for nesting sites, they flocked in droves to these otherwise flawed locations.

MATTHEW BETTS (Oregon State University):
We visited our sites repeatedly, and a number of them actually stayed around the site. And fascinatingly to us, they actually managed to attract females.

… Females that depend on males to pick a good place to raise a family. Betts notes that jumping on the bandwagon generally makes sense, because it saves birds the trouble of inspecting a nesting site that’s already proven hospitable to others. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.