Related birds evolve different songs and colours


Canadian Researchers have discovered a pattern in birds’ songs and plumage that help explain some of the colourful and tuneful variety in nature.

The closely related blackpoll warbler (left) and yellow warbler (right) look and sound very different


The team found that closely related birds that share the same habitat tend to look and sound different.

This evolutionary rule of thumb seems to help birds to identify members of their own species.

Dr Paul Martin presented the findings at the First Joint Congress for Evolutionary Biology in Ottawa.

He and his team studied 250 bird species throughout the world. With the help of the Macaulay Library of birdsong, they were able to compile a database of where the birds lived and what they looked and sounded like.

“We found, repeatedly, that birds that [live in the same location] with a close relative have more divergent songs and colour patterns,” he told BBC Nature.

“So it looks like costs of sharing a location with a relative drives some of the amazing variation we see.”

Written By: Victoria Gill
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  1. Listening to a Thrush singing just in front of my studio high in the pear trees at the moment. When another competes it’s like a battle of will and stamina. And yes, I can tell the difference between the songs.

  2. I saw a news item about this earlier.
    It looks like the different colouration and different songs, separate related species occupying different niches in the same habitat, where cross-breeding would produce disadvantaged offspring.  The hybrid offspring would not compete because they would be poorly adapted to either niche.

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