Species differences in the identification of acoustic stimuli by birds

  • Dent M
  • Welch T
  • McClaine E
 et al. 
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The perceptual organization of auditory stimuli can reveal a great deal about how the brain naturally groups events. The current study uses identification techniques to investigate the abilities of two species of birds in identifying zebra finch song as well as synthetically generated speech stimuli. Budgerigars (Melopsittacus undulatus) and zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) were trained to differentially peck keys in response to the presentation of various complex stimuli. Although there were no clear differences in performance during the training paradigm between the two species, budgerigars were far more adept at learning to identify both sets of complex stimuli than were zebra finches, requiring far less trials to reach criterion. The non-singing but vocally plastic budgerigars vastly outperformed zebra finches at identifying both zebra finch song and synthetically designed human speech despite known similarities in auditory sensitivities between the two species and seemingly equivalent learning capacity. The flexibility that budgerigars seem to have at identifying various stimuli is highlighted by their enhanced performance in these tasks. These results are discussed in the context of what is known about both general and specialized processes which may contribute to any differences or similarities in performance. © 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Acoustic communication
  • Birds
  • Birdsong
  • Hearing
  • Speech

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  • M. L. Dent

  • T. E. Welch

  • E. M. McClaine

  • B. G. Shinn-Cunningham

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