Young male birds may break rigid rules for song structure, but they quickly shape up when it’s time to attract a mate. During the first half of their youth, male canaries raised alone in soundproof cages can learn to precisely imitate computer-generated songs. As spring nears, however, the canaries literally “change their tune” by reorganizing the structure of their songs so that they conform to the rules of adult canary songs and the expectations of potential mates. This new study appears in Friday’s issue of the journal Science, published by AAAS, the nonprofit science society.
“Short of driving a Mercedes-Benz, it’s what a bird can do to say ‘I’m such a good finder of food that I have the time to make these long songs,’” explained Rockefeller University’s Fernando Nottebohm, another author of the Science research.