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Is Quantity of Song Type Use in Adult Birds Related to Singing During Development?

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Songbirds with large vocal repertoires often show individually distinct profiles in the quantity of using their different song types. Factors involved in determining how often a song type is used have been identified in the social domain, e.g. the singing routines of territorial neighbours. In this study, I investigated the role of song development in the formation of individual performance profiles. I examined whether and how the amount of motor practice during vocal ontogeny would account for profiles of song type use in the adult singing. The study was carried out on hand-reared nightingales (Luscinia megarhynchos) which are particularly appropriate subjects for this kind of approach. A clear positive relationship was discovered between the ontogenetic 'age' of imitations (i.e. time of emergence) and the performance rate of these song patterns. Also time of emergence played a role in whether song patterns were discarded from the adult repertoire. I assume that vocal practice plays a role in selectively consolidating song type memories, whose respective strengths then contribute to differential performance observed in the adult birds.


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