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Song Learning in Cross-Fostered Zebra Finches: a Re-Examination of the Sensitive Phase

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Male zebra finches, Taeniopygia guttata, which have been normally-raised or cross-fostered to Bengalese finches, Lonchura striata, learn from a song tutor with whom they arc housed during the sensitive phase, between 35 to 70 days of age. If the tutor is a different species from the father or foster-father however, then the tendency to learn during this time is much less and some males will produce song heard before 35 days. None of the birds in this study learnt after 70 days, although some lost song elements or added improvised ones. These results suggests that specific types of experience influence when a young bird learns its song. It seems that exposure to "poor" song during the sensitive phase stimulates the bird to remember song heard previously and blocks further learning after this time. These results are compared with those obtained in imprinting studies.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Zoology and Marine Biology, The University, St. Andrews, Fife KY16 9TS, Scotland


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