Bird song learning in an eavesdropping context

Michael D. Beecher, John M. Burt, Adrian L. O'Loghlen, Christopher N. Templeton, S. Elizabeth Campbell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Citations (Scopus)


Bird song learning is a major model system for the study of learning with many parallels to human language development. In this experiment we examined a critical but poorly understood aspect of song learning: its social context. We compared how much young song sparrows, Melospiza melodia, learned from two kinds of adult 'song tutors': one with whom the subject interacted vocally, and one whom the subject only overheard singing with another young bird. We found that although subjects learned from both song models, they learned more than twice as many songs from the overheard tutor. These results provide the. rst evidence that young birds choose their songs by eavesdropping on interactions, and in some cases may learn more by eavesdropping than by direct interaction. (C) 2007 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)929-935
Number of pages7
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2007


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