Adult: Young Ratio Influences Song Acquisition in Female European Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris)

  • Bertin A
  • Hausberger M
  • Henry L
 et al. 
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One parallel between humans and most songbirds is the fact that young require social interactions with an adult to acquire specific vocalizations. Songbirds are considered good models for comparative studies, although reports to date concern almost exclusively male songbirds. In addition, adult influence on vocal communication is generally investigated only in restricted social contexts (usually dyads). Here, the authors analyzed song learning and spatial associations among young female starlings that were maintained for 1 year in dyads (1 adult, 1 young), triads (2 adults, 1 young) or a larger group (7 young, 2 adults). Segregation by age was seen in the triads and in the larger group. The influence of adults (proportion of songs copied from adults) decreased as the young adult ratio increased. Unusual temporal features were observed in young maintained in triads and young neglected copying adult songs in the presence of peers. These results are among the first to explore the circumstances under which females learn and from whom they learn. They also add new insight to a wide range of questions about social influences on learning. © 2009 American Psychological Association.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Sturnus vulgaris
  • female starlings
  • social context
  • social preferences
  • song learning

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  • Aline Bertin

  • Martine Hausberger

  • Laurence Henry

  • Marie Annick Richard-Yris

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