Bird Song – Dialects

Wood thrush


When a wood thrush sings outside your window, you can bet that other wood thrushes in the neighborhood recognize this bird as one of their own kind. But do the thrushes a few hundred miles away speak the same language? I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by DuPont. Like people, birds have regional dialects. This has been proven by ornithologists such as Luis Baptista, not only an expert on bird song but a virtuoso bird mimic.

“A white-crowned sparrow here would have a song with a whistle and a vibrato and a trill and what you hear is (imitates), that would be a song of a white crowned sparrow here in San Francisco, in the park. Now if I raised a white-crowned sparrow in isolation, this is what it would sing (imitates) just a bunch of whistles with no pattern to it. Now during the wintertime, we have birds come in migration, and if they’re from the Puget Sound, what they sound like is (imitates).”

Some birds are even bilingual, singing both the local song and a second dialect that they apparently learned from migrating birds passing through. These bird dialects may be a matter of regional acoustics.

“Through natural selection, birds have been selected to produce a sound wthat carries best in a particular sound environment. So it would behoove a bird you see to learn the song of the adults in the population because this product of natural selection would enable them to pass their song the furthest distance possible, to find that single female when he’s looking for a mate.”

Luis Baptista passed away recently. His contribution to the understanding of bird song is valued by scientists and bird lovers the world over. Pulse of the Planet is presented by DuPont, bringing you the miracles of science, with additional support provided by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

Bird Song - Dialects

People aren't the only creatures that have regional accents. Birds of the same species sing in different dialects depending on where they live.
Air Date:10/05/2000
Scientist:
Transcript:

Wood thrush


When a wood thrush sings outside your window, you can bet that other wood thrushes in the neighborhood recognize this bird as one of their own kind. But do the thrushes a few hundred miles away speak the same language? I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by DuPont. Like people, birds have regional dialects. This has been proven by ornithologists such as Luis Baptista, not only an expert on bird song but a virtuoso bird mimic.

"A white-crowned sparrow here would have a song with a whistle and a vibrato and a trill and what you hear is (imitates), that would be a song of a white crowned sparrow here in San Francisco, in the park. Now if I raised a white-crowned sparrow in isolation, this is what it would sing (imitates) just a bunch of whistles with no pattern to it. Now during the wintertime, we have birds come in migration, and if they're from the Puget Sound, what they sound like is (imitates)."

Some birds are even bilingual, singing both the local song and a second dialect that they apparently learned from migrating birds passing through. These bird dialects may be a matter of regional acoustics.

"Through natural selection, birds have been selected to produce a sound wthat carries best in a particular sound environment. So it would behoove a bird you see to learn the song of the adults in the population because this product of natural selection would enable them to pass their song the furthest distance possible, to find that single female when he's looking for a mate."

Luis Baptista passed away recently. His contribution to the understanding of bird song is valued by scientists and bird lovers the world over. Pulse of the Planet is presented by DuPont, bringing you the miracles of science, with additional support provided by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.