Hummingbirds Too Can Create New Tunes


In the animal kingdom, the burden lies with the males to seduce and impress the female for mating. We have already covered an article on peacocks, who had mastered the art of dance to impress the peahens. Apart from dance, singing is another way that male birds try to impress its female counterpart. One such research conducted on hummingbirds, showed that they are capable of changing the tunes of the songs that they learned at tender age or even create a new melody altogether. Traditionally it was believed that these songs were memorized at a tender age and then shapes the tunes for life. 

Hummingbirds are devoted lover and returning to the same location each day continuously for 8 months in a year. They repeat their song hoping an answer from the female, almost twice per second for 8 hours at a span.

Hummingbirds are tiny birds known for midair fluttering during hunting or gathering nectar from the flowers. But they are also known for another important trait that is seen during courtship period, the males of certain species of hummingbirds produces sound using their tail feathers. Air flowing through the tail feathers makes a fluttering noise that also helps in generating melody. Most importantly, the male hummingbirds produce these sounds specifically during the courtship period to find a mate.

Now a new study conducted by the biologist at New Mexico State University, Timothy Wright and Marcelo Araya Salas, reveals a new understanding of the song sung by long-billed male hermit hummingbirds (Phaethornis longirostris) found in Costa Rica that generally differ by individual or locale. They found that these birds were capable of modifying the tunes, confirming that they keep learning new melodies even in the later stages of life.

Researcher Wright is bewildered by the effort that these birds put into singing or while guarding its territory and says that these new songs can resemble with those of other hummingbirds in the surrounding. But they at times the male hummingbirds create their unique songs.

Wright and his colleague are now trying to understand whether these songs provide any edge to males in finding a suitable female match. After evaluating other behavior such as hovering, tail fluttering and guarding its territory, it could be a feasible opportunity, helping the male hummingbirds.

The hovering and fluttering of tail also used to ward off another enemy male hummingbird known as lek, trying to grab the attention of the females in the locality. The unique capability to create a new melody in the later stage of the life could turn out to be altering skill never noticed before. And the researchers are still trying to understand whether these strategies are more intended to lure females or to show its aggressiveness to its rivals.

Just like humans whose taste in music has changed over the time, hummingbirds create new tunes and love songs for their females.

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