Songbirds can learn new songs to communicate and survive

image source, Getty Images

Songbirds have the ability to learn different songs in order to communicate, according to a new study.

Just as people have different accents and languages, songbirds of the same species also have differences in their songs depending on their location.

Sometimes moving an animal from one place to another is an important part of conservation efforts, and the scientists wanted to see if this had a long-term impact on the birds.

They discovered that these birds can learn the songs they need to communicate and survive in the wild.

image source, Getty Images

image caption, The Cirl Bunting is a rare farmland songbird whose numbers have declined in the UK due to habitat loss

Researchers from the University of Plymouth, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and Manchester Metropolitan University looked at hatchlings taken from sites in Devon, hand-raised and then reintroduced to Cornwall.

When an animal is hand-raised, it means that a person has cared for it since it was very young, rather than its mother.

Cirl buntings are songbirds that must learn their songs from adult birds.

But because the chicks were hand-reared before being reintroduced to Cornwall, they were never taught how to sing.

image source, Getty Images

image caption, The Cirl Bunting is found almost exclusively in South Devon, but conservationists have reintroduced them to Cornwall.

Bird song recordings made in Cornwall in 2011 showed that the songs of the population of cirl buntings were quite different from the original population in Devon.

They didn’t sing that many types of songs and what the individuals sang wasn’t always right.

The scientists were not surprised by these findings because the nestlings only had a CD of a single bunting song while being hand-reared.

image source, Getty Images

image caption, These birds were once widespread in southern England, but have been in decline since the Second World War, and by 1989, fewer than 120 pairs were recorded.

When researchers returned to Cornwall in 2019, the songs were almost identical to those in Devon.

The findings show that although things weren’t quite right to begin with, as the population grew in size over the next eight years, the population recovered its song.

A small population of cirl buntings now thrives in Cornwall, but these rare birds will continue to be monitored.

Related Articles

Back to top button