Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Lady Whipbirds Sing With An Accent

From The Discovery Channel: A Scotsman with a heavy brogue may speak the same language as a Texas cowboy, but each has a distinct accent; now researchers have discovered that female whipbirds in Australia sing the same basic songs, but with regional accents.

Female birds in general rarely sing, so that find itself is unusual. The determination is doubly noteworthy because the scientists observed that the males of this species, Psophodes olivaceus, sing with no accent whatsoever.

Mennill and his colleague Amy Rogers measured eastern whipbird recordings from 16 different populations along the east coast of Australia. For each of the 112 birds that they recorded, they measured the song's number of syllables, the length of the first syllable, the highest and lowest frequency of the last syllable, the time between these frequency extremes and other characteristics.

The vast majority of female recordings showed variations on each of these criteria, but male songs were all virtually identical.

In terms of accents, he said that geographical variations, or dialects, are found in other songbirds, whales, seals and primates.

Findings were published in a recent issue of the Journal of Avian Biology.

*Female 1

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