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Abstract

Changes in preference for a specific song-learning context, characterized by close proximity of a tutor, were investigated in the nightingale, Luscinia megarhynchos. Two groups of males were tutored with conspecific song for two periods, days 42 to 56, and days 57 to 71. Song types were either presented from tape alone (group A) or were played in the presence of a familiar tutor, i.e. the person who hand-raised the birds (group B). Acquisition success did not differ between the groups for period 2. However, while males of group B acquired songs during both tutoring periods, males of group A learned only during period 2. This indicates that in nightingales the preference for a specific song-learning context decreases during development. A comparison with an earlier study suggests that this shift is not age dependent but primarily due to auditory experience with the song patterns to be learned. Such a mechanism has also been described for the termination of sensitive phases for song learning. Because song acquisition in adult nightingales does not depend any more on close spatial proximity of a familiar tutor, a male in his first spring and later on can learn from a number of singing territorial neighbours, and by this means acquire the large song-type repertoire typical for the species.