Many of the birds that awaken us each morning learn their melodious songs the same way that humans learn a dialect — from parents and neighbors.
“If you isolate humans, their dialects quite often change; you can tell after a while where somebody comes from. And song has been interpreted in that same way,” said senior author Rauri Bowie, UC Berkeley professor of integrative biology and a curator in the campus’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology. “What our paper shows is that it’s not necessarily the case for birds. Even in traits that should be very labile, such as song or plumage, you can have long periods of stasis.”