Singing zebra finches

Just as little children learn how to talk, young zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) learn how to sing. The young birds recognize the songs of their dads and will start making songs of their own.
To this conclusion came the doctoral research of Sharon Gobes. Gobes, member of the Behavioral Biology group of the university of Utrecht, studied the memory of song in zebra finches. Young zebra finches learn to sing the song of their fathers and also memorize the sounds. These can be used to make a song of their own. For the ‘composing’ of the song, the finches use another part of their brains. The singing of the father bird activates the singing memory. Only when the birds have learned how to do this, they will be able to sing their own song. People learn to use their vocal capacities in a similar way. First, a child needs to learn how to store memories. Only then can it learn how to talk.

Only male zebra finches sing. Female finches communicate by means of calls. The singing of the male is a mating call. It serves to stimulate the female, not to mark the territory. The mating call can be heard all year through.