Effects of Social Interaction on the Development of Starling Song and the Perception of These Effects by Conspecifics
AbstractTo examine the effects of contact with a conspecific in the absence of species-typical song models, the authors raised starlings in male–male pairs in acoustic isolation. The songs of these birds differed significantly from those of either individual isolates or wild adults and resembled in some respects the songs of starlings tutored by live conspecifics. Operant conditioning techniques were used to demonstrate that these differences among songs were perceptually salient to conspecifics. The results indicated that (a) wild-caught adult starlings are capable of forming open-ended categories for isolate and wild song, (b) starlings perceive the songs of isolated pairs as more “isolatelike” than “wildlike,” and (c) starlings can distinguish the songs of isolated pairs from those of individual isolates. Both experiments point to the importance of social factors in avian song development.