July 9, 2012

Birds Have Distinct Song Compared To Neighbors

Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

Research has revealed just what is behind a birds' song, shedding more light on nature's melody.

Canadian researchers found that closely related birds that share the same habitat are not necessarily birds of the same feather that flock together in music, but instead tend to look and sound different.

The team studied 250 bird species throughout the world and were able to compile a database of where the birds lived, and what they looked and sounded like.

"We found, repeatedly, that birds that [live in the same location] with a close relative have more divergent songs and color patterns," Dr. Paul Martin, who presented the research at the First Joint Congress, told BBC Nature. "So it looks like costs of sharing a location with a relative drives some of the amazing variation we see."

He said he was drawn to studying birds because he was fascinated by their variety.

"I wanted to know why we see this variation, especially in species that haven't been [separate species] for that long," he told the British news agency. "Being different in songs and color is really important to identify your own species and to avoid mating outside your own species."

He said color patterns and songs are traits that are used for mate attraction and choice, so these kind of traits are expected to diverge.

Martin also said that being different could help ensure that birds are not inappropriately "picked on" during competition for food and territory.