Wednesday, December 06, 2006

City birds rap, rural ones sing country.

Birds, it seems, have different musical styles that vary according to whether they live in the town or the country. While rural birds like to sing traditional melodies, their urban relatives prefer more modern, rap-style rhythms.
A major study, carried out by a Dutch university and reported here, recorded the singing of great tits in ten major European cities, including London, Paris, Amsterdam and Prague. They then compared their musical efforts with tits living in forests.
While the country birds sang slower, more melodic and “traditional” songs, the study found that urban birds sent out calls that were shorter and faster and were also sung at a higher pitch. The city birds experimented with calls of between one and five notes, while those in forests stuck to the more normal combinations of two, three and four note tunes, the research found.
The authors have concluded the city birds are having to adapt to compete with background noise of the city in order to attract mates.
"Our data show that the adjustment of individual great tits to local noise conditions is not a local phenomenon but occurs throughout Europe and probably in all noisy urban areas,” say the authors of the paper, published in the journal Current Biology.
"Urban birds often experience very noisy conditions while singing, which may influence the efficacy of their acoustic signals. Male birds typically sing to defend a territory and to attract mates.If their song is not heard by the targeted audience they have to physically fight off intruders, and attracting females may be difficult."

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