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Song Tutor Choice in Zebra Finches and Bengalese Finches: the Relative Importance of Visual and Vocal Cues

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This paper examined the relative importance of visual and vocal cues for song tutor choice. In the first study zebra finches, Taeniopygia guttata, and Bengalese finches, Lonchura striata, were housed with two song tutors at independence, a zebra finch singing Bengalese finch song and a Bengalese finch singing zebra finch song. All the males tended to learn from the conspecific song tutor, irrespective of whether they had been raised by a pair of conspecifics, the female alone or cross-fostered to a pair of the other species. In the second study zebra finches were housed at independence with two conspecific song tutors, one with a normal song and one which sang Bengalese finch song elements. There was no tendency to learn zebra finch elements which suggests that species-specific elements are not important for song tutor choice in zebra finches. Other vocal differences between the tutors such as length of the song phrase and species-specific call notes might bias learning in favour of the conspecific. Visual differences between the two species, both in appearance and behaviour, seem to be important. Parental cues before independence appear to be relatively uninfluential. However, siblings may be important, both the species and number per clutch: this is a factor which has been overlooked in previous studies of song learning.

Affiliations: 1: Dept. Zoology and Marine Biology, University of St. Andrews, Fife, Scotland


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