Cuckoo calls?

Subject: Cuckoo calls?
From: Peter Woodall <>
Date: Mon, 17 Nov 2003 11:42:54 +1000
At 11:05 AM 16/11/2003 +1100, you wrote:
On Sat, Nov 15, 2003 at 10:06:42PM +1000, jade welch wrote:
> I have a question to ask. My question is this. When birds are raised by
> other species such as with cuckoos do the birds use some or all of the
> calls of their hosts through out there life and if not how do they learn
> the calls of their real parents?

Most bird vocalizations are partly or completely genetically determined
(inherited).  In the passerines and some other groups environmental
influence (vocal learning) is known to be important.

Some bird species when raised without hearing parental or other
conspecific vocalizations will still develop normal vocalizations.
Some species raised in such isolation develop vocalizations missing
elements or differing in other attributes.  Some species will not develop
anything resembling normal vocalizations.

I haven't seen any mention of vocal learning in the Cuculidae (Cuckoos).
If vocal learning is present you'd expect to see to see geographical
variation in vocalizations.  My impression is that some Australian
cuckoo species' vocalizations don't vary across their range.  If so,
it is likely that their vocalizations are entirely genetically determined.

In Africa, the Diederik Cuckoo  has at least two distinct
populations or "demes". One of these parasitises the Red Bishop and
lays pale blue, unmarked eggs, the other parasitises Masked Weavers
and lays white, blotched eggs - in both cases closely matching those of
the host.  However, they all seem to have the same call

On the other hand the Widowfinches (Vidua spp.) which are passerines,
parasitising small waxbills & finches, do seem to learn and use some of
their hosts' song patterns.  Payne did a lot of work on these.


Pete Woodall

Dr Peter F. Woodall
Senior Lecturer in Veterinary Anatomy
School of Veterinary Science
The University of Queensland,
Brisbane, Australia, 4072
Phone +7+3365230

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