Animal Behavior

Animal Instinct, Learning, and Emotions

How and when do songbirds learn to sing?

Through analysis of many bird species, ethnologists have found two major types of song development: by imitating the songs of others, particularly adults of the same species, and the invention or improvisation of unique songs. For example, observations of male song sparrows, particularly during their first month of life, show that when the birds arrive at a new habitat, they memorize the songs of the male song sparrows in that neighborhood.

As for when birds begin to sing, it varies depending on the type of bird. Taking the same example of the song sparrow, the males generally learn to sing during a critical period between ten and fifty days after hatching. In some birds such as the mouse wren, the learning period for song development is influenced by the photoperiod (amount of daylight) and social interactions with other adult birds.


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