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Inheritance and Learning in the Song of the Chaffinch (Fringilla Coelebs L.)

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It is demonstrated that the improvement of the song of the Chaffinch in early spring is due to the incipient effect of male sex hormone, in the adult males; in the juvenile males-scarcely one year old-in addition to the effect of the hormone it also is due to imitation, but neither to maturation nor to practising. Observations of male Chaffinches reared in isolation from the age of a week show that the song has an innate basis but that the perfect song has to be learnt by imitation in spring, when the young birds begin to sing. Juveniles caught in September have the same imperfect song the following spring as that of young birds reared in isolation. The imitation takes place during a definite period in spring; later the song is unalterable. Treatment with male sex hormone in winter induces subsong; later the birds are singing aloud, the adult males producing the perfect song and the juvenile males singing imperfectly. Song is also elicited in females, but this is only a twittering, somewhat resembling the subsong of the male. At the same time the bill in both sexes is turning blue. The whole repertoire of different notes, apart from the song, is innate; even the "huid", of which geographical variations are known.

Affiliations: 1: Zoological Gardens, Copenhagen


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