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Jul 09, 2019

Hungarian researchers show birds can learn new “expressions”

Birds are capable of learning new expressions and even dialects, an experiment by a group of ornithologists from the Hungarian Academy of Science’s Ecological and Botanical Institute has found.

Birds are capable of learning new expressions and even dialects, an experiment by a group of Hungarian ornithologists has found.

According to Rmx.news, the research was conducted in the northern Hungarian Pilis mountains on a population of spotted flycatchers (Muscicapa striata).

In the research three recordings of artificially created birdsongs and three other recordings of actual flycatcher calls from Italy were played in the birds’ habitat. László Zsolt Garamszegi, director of the Hungarian Academy of Science’s Ecological and Botanical Institute told Magyar Hírlap that learning new expressions is a process that can be regarded as cultural evolution.

Some expressions are readily assimilated by the birds, while others will be entirely forgotten, he said. Garamszegi added that the learning process is more pronounced among male flycatchers, who will acquire new expressions in an evolutionary drive to increase their chances of finding a mating partner.

He said the process is reinforced by positive feedback and comparing current birdcalls with recordings going back just a few decades already shows major changes in such a short time span. The sounds don’t even have to make any “sense” – if there is such a thing in this context – as the flycatchers will readily learn even telephone ringtones.

Photo credit: photomecan.eu