Song Learning in Bengalese Finches: a Comparison with Zebra Finches


Department of Zoology and Marine Biology, University of St. Andrews, St. Andrews, Fife, Scotland KY16 9TS.


Male Bengalese finches, Lonchura striata var. domestica, learn their song from an adult male conspecific with whom they can interact at 35 to 70 days of age and normally-raised males fail to reproduce song which they have only heard before or after this time. Birds which have been raised by their mother alone and those which have been deprived of a song tutor during the learning phase produce abnormal songs with indistinct elements and little or no phrase structure; this is typical of males which fail to hear adult song during their development. These songs are unstable and are replaced by normal songs, if there is an opportunity to learn from an adult male conspecific. Presumably, this flexibility in the time when young males learn acts as a safeguard to ensure that normal conspecific song is produced.

These results bear striking similarity to those on zebra finch song development. Differences between the two species, especially in the learning of call notes by female zebra finches, are discussed.