English News

  • youtube
  • facebook
  • twitter

Smart male sparrows shuffle their playlist to woo females!

The male sparrow juggles his playlist of songs to ensure that the female is impressed (Pic. Courtesy wikimedia commons)

Anybody will tell you that if a repertoire of songs is played in the same order more than once it becomes tedious. Hence, the sequence needs to be shuffled to break the monotony and that is what male sparrows do – remix and rearrange their songs to keep intact the love interest of the female, a report in smithsonianmag.com stated.

As per the details of the study published in Proceedings of The Royal Society B, the songbirds keeping track of every new song they sing, change the order every half an hour to keep the females wondering.

Singing and songs are vital for the male sparrow as that is the way to win over a potential mate and battle for breeding territories.

Also read: Arctic’s amazing sponges feed on the remains of ancient extinct creatures

In order to know more about their songs, scientists went to the northwest Pennsylvania woods to record several hours of trilling and chirping. Following recording of more than 30 individual birds, they proceeded to their laboratory to chart the songs to find out the order in which they were sung and their duration.

It was found that males did not go through their songs on a random basis rather they curated and planned their own playlist. Bachelor birds avoided repeating the same tune by ensuring that they select and put together six to 12 different two-second soundbites while performing which may go up to 30 minutes as per a report in NPR.

Speaking on this aspect, Jon Sakata, a McGill University ornithologist said: "I think that what's surprising about this is the scale. You know, 20 to 30 minutes is quite a long time in terms of cycling through different song types." Sakata was not part of the study.

According to a statement issued by Duke University, it is only after finishing their entire list of songs, will the male repeat a number. If one tune has been sung ten times in a row, then the male will  render other songs before going back to this tune that has been played ten times.

Behaviour like this shows long-distance dependency which means that future is dependent on the past actions – this capability is generally not found in non-human species. For sparrows it signifies that the queue of songs is dependent on what was sung in the past 30 minutes.

Also read: Albatross couples could be separated by Climate Change

This highlights the super memory capacities and recall abilities of the male sparrows which is unlike other birds like canaries who can recollect what they played just five to ten seconds back. This attribute of the sparrows is quite like human syntax and the way our brains memorise language and communicate.

Scientists now want to study if this shuffling ability gives the male an advantage in finding a mate.

Summing up the study, its author, Stephen Nowicki, a biologist from Duke University observed in a statement: "You've got your playlist for running, and the reason you've got that is because running is kind of boring. You know that these ten songs are going to keep you motivated, but if you are going to run for 20 songs long, why not shuffle it so the next time you don't hear the same songs in the same order?"