-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
SUNDAY, Aug. 28 (HealthDay News) -- Although it may sound sweet
and friendly, song-sharing among sparrows is actually a hostile
behavior, similar to arguing or slinging insults, Canadian
scientists have found.
The study from researchers at Queens University in Kingston,
Ontario, also revealed that differences among the birds, such as
age and where they live, play a role in how aggressive their
shouting matches become.
"It's been hypothesized that repertoire size and song complexity is about the singer's ability to advertise their quality as a mate," study lead author, Janet Lapierre, a visiting biologist from the University of Western Ontario, said in a Queens University news release. "Song-sharing, where birds sing a smaller number of their species' greatest hits, is a more aggressive and attention-seeking behavior. It's also a behavior most often displayed by belligerent older males."
Using a 16-channel acoustic location system, the researchers
found aggressive song-sharing typically happens in "tough" sparrow
neighborhoods, while more peaceful sparrows tend to reside in more
Additionally, the study showed that the birds most likely to
take part in hostile song-sharing rituals were older male sparrows.
These may be the birds with more experience in song-sharing
behavior, and they may be more willing and able to risk conflict,
the researchers suggested.
"The novelty of this study was that we looked at how birds use songs rather than just examining the content of their repertoires," explained Beth MacDougall-Shackleton, biology professor at the University of Western Ontario, in the news release. "We really could not have done this research without the longstanding study population of song sparrows at the Queens University Biological Station."
These findings were released online in advance of publication in
an upcoming print issue of the journal
Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology.
The U.S. National Audubon Society provides more information on
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