Show Details

Wild Bird Song Learning

October 15, 2018

A new study shows that birds can learn from recordings in the wild.


A Savannah Sparrow. (Dan Mennill)

A Savannah Sparrow. (Dan Mennill)


Learning in the wild. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

(Savannah sparrow song)

Despite our lack of feathers, we share the ability to learn our vocalizations with songbirds. Now, researchers have demonstrated for the first time that young birds can learn from recorded songs in the wild. University of Windsor ornithologist Dan Mennill and his team played recordings of Savannah Sparrow songs through loudspeakers to young birds on Kent island in Eastern Canada. The recordings were of songs that had never before been heard on the island. When they reached adulthood, 1/3 of the songsters had learned the new songs.

DAN MENNILL (University of Windsor):

The first bird to open his beak produced a song that was a near perfect match to the sounds that we were playing through our loudspeakers. 3


The researchers write in Current Biology that the birds learned best if they heard the songs as babies and again as young adults. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

(Savannah sparrow song)

Story by Susanne Bard