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Birds communicate reproductive success in song
Date:6/18/2008

CORVALLIS, Ore. Some migratory songbirds figure out the best place to live by eavesdropping on the singing of others that successfully have had baby birds a communication and behavioral trait so strong that researchers playing recorded songs induced them to nest in places they otherwise would have avoided.

This suggests that songbirds have more complex communication abilities than had previously been understood, researchers say, and that these "social cues" can be as or more important than the physical environment of a site.

The discovery was just published in a professional journal, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, by scientists from Oregon State University, along with collaborators from Wellesley College, Queen's University and Trent University in Ontario, Canada.

"Finding the right habitat in which to breed is a matter of life and death for most birds," said Matthew Betts, an OSU assistant professor of forest science and expert on avian ecology. "They don't live a long time and they need to get it right the first time."

"The common wisdom is that these birds select sites solely on vegetation structure," Betts said. "If a bird selects a site for its nest that doesn't have the appropriate cover and food supply, it most likely won't be able to successfully breed. But now we know that young birds can listen to the songs of more experienced and successful birds and use this to help decide where they will nest the next year."

The scientists discovered this in experimental studies at 54 research sites with the black-throated blue warbler in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. During the fall when some of these birds had successfully mated and were singing to their young probably to teach the young ones how to sing the researchers played recordings of their song in other places that were, in fact, lousy bird habitat. Other black-throated blue warblers flying overhead heard these songs and decided it mus
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Contact: Matthew Betts
matthew.betts@oregonstate.edu
541-737-0787
Oregon State University
Source:Eurekalert

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