Lively songbirds can quickly memorize the signature sounds of at least 50 different individuals of their flock
If songbirds appeared in the reality TV contest “The Masked Singer,” zebra birds would likely steal the show. This is because they can quickly memorize the distinct sounds of at least 50 different members of their flock, according to new research from the University of California, Berkeley.
In the findings recently published in the journal Science advances, These noisy, red-beaked songbirds, known as zebra finches, have been offered to select each other from among a crowd (or flock) based on a song or call from a particular peer.
Like humans who can tell which friend or relative instantly calls a person’s bell, zebra finches have a near-human ability to map language. Moreover, they could remember each other’s unique sounds for months and possibly longer, the results indicate.
“The amazing auditory memory of zebra birds shows that birds’ brains are highly adapted to complex social communication,” said lead author Frederick Theunison, professor of psychology, integrative biology and neuroscience at the University of California, Berkeley.
Theunissen and co-researchers sought to measure the range and size of zebra finches being able to identify their feathered mates based solely on their unique sounds. As a result, they found that the lifelong mating birds performed better than expected.
“For animals, the ability to recognize the source and meaning of calling group members requires complex mapping skills, and that’s something the zebras have clearly mastered,” said Theunison.
A pioneer in the study of auditory communication of birds and humans for at least two decades, Theunissen has gained admiration and admiration for the communication skills of zebra finches through his collaboration with UC Berkeley postdoctoral fellow Julie Elle, a neurologist who has studied zebra finches in forests of their home country of Australia . Their group work yielded ground-breaking results on communication skills for zebra finches.
Zebra finches usually move in colonies of 50 to 100 birds, fly away and then return together. Usually their songs are mating calls, while distance or call calls are used to locate them, or to locate each other.
“They have what we call a ‘fusion fusion’ society, where they split up and then come back together,” said Theunison. “They do not want to separate from the herd, and therefore, if one of them is lost, they may call out“ Hey, Ted, we are here. ”Or, if one of them is sitting in a nest while the other is looking for food, one might call to ask if it is safe to return to The nest. “
These days, Theunissen keeps a few dozen zebras in cages both on and around campus, 20 of which were used in this latest experiment.
In a two-part experiment, 20 zebras were trained to distinguish and pronounce different birds. At first, half of the birds were tested on memorizing songs, while the other half were rated by distance or contact calls. Then they switched those tasks.
Then, zebra finches, one by one, were placed inside a room and heard the sounds as part of the reward system. The goal was to train them to respond to specific zebra finches by hearing and memorizing many different renditions of those distinct birds’ sounds.
By clicking on a switch inside the chamber, target people made an audio recording of Zebra Finch’s pronunciation. If they wait for the six-second recording to finish, and it’s part of the bonus pool, they’ll get the bird seed. If they click before recording ends, they proceed to the next recording. Through many experiments, they learned which sounds could produce bird seed and which should be skipped.
Then, zebra finches were submitted for further audio recordings of new zebra finches, to teach them to distinguish which sounds belong to which bird. Soon they learned to differentiate between 16 different zebra birds.
In fact, zebra finches, male and female, performed so well in the tests that four of them were assigned the more difficult task of distinguishing between 56 different zebras. On average, they successfully identified 42 different zebras, based on their distinctive sounds. Additionally, they were still able to identify birds based on their unique sounds a month later.
“I really admire the amazing memory abilities that zebra finches have for interpreting call calls,” said Tionyson. Previous research shows that songbirds are able to use simple syntax to generate complex meanings, and that in many bird species, song is learned by imitation. It is now clear that the brain of a songbird is connected to vocal communication. ”
In addition to Theonison, the study’s co-authors are Kevin Yu and Willam Wood at the University of California, Berkeley.