Birdsong isn’t just competition for mates or territory: Zebra finches sing to bond

When you hear beautiful birdsong, such as the warbling of the Australasian magpie, you might believe it’s a sign of intense competition for territory or showing off to attract a mate.

After all, that’s the way birdsong is often thought of—a way for male birds to compete with each other. A prettier version of nature red in tooth and claw, as Tennyson put it. There’s some truth to it—in many species, even the most beautiful song by a male in another’s territory will invite attack.

But birdsong isn’t one dimensional. In some species, birdsong is much less about competition and much more about social cooperation. Our study of highly social zebra finches found the song of the males boosts social cohesion in local populations. It even helps these tiny birds to coordinate their nest building, mating and reproduction when there’s about to be abundant food for their young.

Read Article