Zebra Finch - Song and Other Vocalizations

Song and Other Vocalizations

Zebra Finches are loud and boisterous singers. Their calls can be a loud "beep", "meep", "oi!" or "a-ha!". Their song is a few small beeps, leading up to a rhythmic song of varying complexity in males. Each male's song is different, although birds of the same bloodline will exhibit similarities, and all finches will overlay their own uniqueness onto a common rhythmic framework. Sons generally learn the song of their fathers with little variation. Songs may change during puberty, but afterwards they are locked in for the life of the bird. Scientific research at Japan's RIKEN institute has suggested that singing to females is an emotionally rewarding experience for male Zebra Finches.

Male Zebra Finches begin to sing at puberty, while females lack a singing ability. This is due to a developmental difference, where in the embryo, the male Zebra Finch produces estrogen, which is transformed into a testosterone-like hormone in the brain, which in turn leads to the development of the nervous system for a song system. Their songs begin as a few disjointed sounds, but as they experiment, they match what they sing to the memory of their fathers' song, and they rapidly mature into full-fledged songs. During these formative times, they will incorporate sounds from their surroundings into their songs, also using the songs of other nearby males for inspiration.

Male finches use their songs, in part, as a mating call. The mating act is usually accompanied by a high-pitched whining sound. They will also exhibit a hissing sound when protecting their territories.

Because Zebra Finch males learn their songs, they are often used as avian model organisms to investigate the neural bases of learning, memory, and sensorimotor integration. The Zebra Finch genome was the second bird genome to be sequenced, in 2008, after that of the chicken. Their popularity as model organisms is also related to their prolific breeding, an adaptation to their usually dry environment. This ability also makes them popular as pet songbirds.

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Famous quotes containing the word song:

    How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?
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    Bible: Hebrew Psalm CXXXVII (l. CXXXVII, 4–5)