Searching for the functional origins of song in eastern brown headed cowbirds molothrus ater ater
King, A.P.; West, M.J.
Animal Behaviour 36(6): 1575-1588
ISSN/ISBN: 0003-3472 DOI: 10.1016/s0003-3472(88)80100-3
Three experiments were conducted to examine the functional properties of vocal precursors to stereotyped song in socially housed captive cowbirds. Previous studies had shown that eastern male cowbirds developed different song repertoires when housed in different social contexts. This paper reports on the acoustic origins of the different vocal outcomes. In addition, a winter roost of cowbirds was studied to investigate the setting in which males naturally develop song. Analyses of the vocalizations of laboratory-housed subjects revealed acoustic differences from the earliest stages of song ontogeny. The field data indicated that free-living and laboratory-housed males shared the same structural categories of song and that the winter roost provided males with opportunities to interact with females. Taken as a whole, the studies suggest that song ontogeny is a dynamic process involving social and vocal interactions between singers and listeners.