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Duetting Wrens

August 2, 2010

In the tropics, male and female wrens team up to sing duets.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):
Cooperation through song…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.
(Stripe-breasted wren duet)
This might sound like just one bird singing, but it’s actually two birds: a male and a female stripe-breasted wren singing a duet.

ALAN CLARK (Fordham University):
And here’s just these beautiful amazing complexities these birds have evolved to communicate both with each other and their neighbors.

HIRSHON:
That’s behavioral ecologist Alan Clark of Fordham University. He says in the Northern Hemisphere, male birds do most of the singing. But many tropical species like this one sing duets. He says singing together functions as a form of territorial defense.

ALAN CLARK (Fordham University):
It’s a pair of wrens that say, hey, this is our territory, stay out of it. It’s also a way to re-enforce pair bonds by creating a duet which then announces “oh by the way, he’s taken”, or “she’s taken”.