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Do Contingencies with Tutor Behaviour Influence Song Learning in Zebra Finches?

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Social interaction with a song tutor is often found to be important for the song learning process in songbirds, but the mechanism is still unclear. The main aim of this study is to find indications for contingencies between singing and interactive behaviours, between and within tutors and tutees, which might influence the song learning process of zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata). To this end we observed the interactions of eleven juvenile zebra finch males with their fathers (the tutors) and their mothers during the sensitive phase for song learning, and examined four different types of possible contingencies. The evidence for these contingencies was not very strong: (1) We found some weak indications that a tutee can anticipate tutor song by preceding tutor behaviour. There were no indications that (2) tutor song is contingent upon subsequent behaviour of the tutor, that (3) juvenile males can control singing of their tutor by preceding operant social behaviour, or that (4) social behaviour of the tutor reinforces singing of the tutee. We found some indications that the juvenile males attend actively to the tutor song. Furthermore, we found that the juvenile males maintained more mutual interactions with their father than with their mother. In general, we did not find any clear relationship between aspects of social interaction and song copying in zebra finches.

Affiliations: 1: Behavioural Biology, Institute of Evolutionary and Ecological Sciences, University of Leiden, P.O. Box 9516, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands;, Email: Houx@RULSFB.LeidenUniv.NL; 2: Behavioural Biology, Institute of Evolutionary and Ecological Sciences, University of Leiden, P.O. Box 9516, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands

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