Nati on the social context of how birds learn their songs

Postdoc Nati Garcia has a new paper out in Behavioral Ecology entitled What have we recently learned about song learning and social interactions?

Abstract: Vocal learning in birds is a complex animal behavior with several parallels to vocal learning in humans. Early experiments in the 70s showing that juvenile birds could learn their species’ normal song presented only through loudspeakers led to the general notion that social interactions are unnecessary for song learning. These views were soon challenged, and after decades of research we know that different social factors influence song learning. Here, I discuss recent research that is getting us closer to understanding how. Juvenile birds in the wild are exposed to both direct and indirect interactions with singing adults, which can be relevant to different aspects of the learning process. The exposure to a potential living tutor may trigger or enhance the learning process, but direct interaction with a tutor producing the song type that is finally learned or incorporated to the repertoire is not required. Social interactions that the learner witnesses may be more important in determining which songs are included in the final repertoire of an adult bird. Further research is also required to better understand the role of interactions with females, not by providing a model song to imitate but by exhibiting responses contingent to juveniles practicing their songs.

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