Apparent Correlation Between Whipbird Singing Skills and Mating Success

To: <>, "birding aus" <>
Subject: Apparent Correlation Between Whipbird Singing Skills and Mating Success
From: "Philip A. Veerman" <>
Date: Tue, 6 Nov 2001 23:49:48 +1100
Seems like quite a reasonable suggestion and may well be true, especially as the call is usually given as a duet. However the number of recordings of the birds that have been made would appear to be irrelevant. The sample size of just five pairs is nowhere near big enough a sample on which to base a finding like that.
-----Original Message-----
From: Laurie & Leanne Knight <>
To: m("","birding-aus");"> <m("","birding-aus");">>
Date: Tuesday, 6 November 2001 19:38
Subject: [BIRDING-AUS] Apparent Correlation Between Whipbird Singing Skills and Mating Success

OK birdos, here is a topic to get you going.  Is the following
correlation due simply to the fact that the better singers have better
mates, or perhaps sing better because they are in better condition, as
opposed to the inference in the following article?


Bird says lead singers get most of the chicks

Date: 06/11/2001

By Richard Macey

Tristen Bird enjoys nothing better than strumming his guitar and belting
out a tune.

The aptly named Taronga Zoo keeper and amateur musician is optimistic he
can help bring endangered birds back from the edge of extinction by
teaching them to sing better.

For the past year, Mr Bird and his colleague, Dr Greg Johnson, of
Adelaide Zoo, studied the vocal talents of Psophodes olivaceus, better
known as the eastern whipbird, which inhabits the coastal rainforests of
NSW, Queensland and Victoria.

After taping about 100 hours of singing by five pairs of eastern
whipbirds in captivity at Adelaide Zoo, the researchers electronically
analysed the recordings and made a remarkable discovery.

"The better a bird sings, the more receptive its mate will be," Mr Bird
said yesterday. "The birds that breed the most have a greater vocal

They found that birds with better singing skills tended to mate more
often and were more likely to produce bigger clutches of chicks.

The most successful birds appeared to be better at reaching lower
frequency notes, while the "poorer" singers seemed to produce higher
frequency calls.

Mr Bird told an international zookeepers' conference in Sydney yesterday
that it might be possible to teach poor warblers to sing better - and
boost their breeding - by playing them recordings of good singers.

If their zoo birds picked up the tunes and responded by producing more
chicks, the next step would be trying the technique on the endangered
western whipbirds, which lived in Western Australia's Tin Can
Bay [Two Peoples Bay??? - TCB is in Qld].

The singing lessons could be extended to other threatened birds and
possibly even to teaching endangered mammals how to improve their mating

Mr Bird plans to spend the next three years collecting more recordings
of wild eastern whipbirds, but believes he has enough to begin the first
whipbird singing classes before the end of the year. He hopes to splice
together the calls of many whipbirds to produce an irresistible mating
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