Every once in a while, I've seen an exciting paper about birdsong in the news releases, but, somehow, the thought I should do something about birdsong hasn't resulted in action, until now. The work that made it happen was the PNAS paper on duetting wrens, which I discuss in some detail. As a less than perfect musician I am very impressed by the extremely rapid turn-taking between wren duet partners, which amounts to up to 300 events per minute. Playing three notes on a beat at 100 beats per minute is something I can manage on a good day with a following wind, but I might struggle doing it precisely on time in a duet situation, while paying attention to an equally fast-moving partner.
Another exciting thing I learnt is that the mockingbird doesn't just mock, it sticks together borrowed parts in original ways, just like any human composer would. Oh, and there is a cellist in there as well.
My musical musings on birdsong are out now:
Tuning in to bird behaviour
Current Biology Volume 31, Issue 14, 26 July 2021, Pages R879-R882
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The rapidly alternating duet singing in plain-tailed wrens is one of the most impressive examples of cooperation in birdsong. (Photo: © Melissa Coleman.)