Read about Esmeralda Quirós Guerrero’s research on the singing patterns of birds in the Osa. The intense biodiversity around our stations provided her with a perfect place to conduct her research. We love learning more about the incredible birds of the Osa!
Did you know that many species of birds sing duets? Vocal displays are one of the most researched interactions between and within species. There is a great diversity in the structure of singing behavior. I have been investigating the learning process of duets in Osa songbirds. Duets are complex songs that large groups or paired mates sing in coordination with one another to produce a wide array of performances. Not only are duets complex in how they are structured but several species also have a big repertoire of duets that they use non-randomly. For example, a particular phrase from a female is only sung in response to a particular phrase from a male and vice versa. This coordination is not only hard to produce but also hard to learn.
I chose to study the development of Riverside Wrens, Cantorchilus semibadius which inhabit the pacific slope of southern Costa Rica. Riverside Wrens are found next to rivers and wetlands and they sing elaborate duets. I decided to conduct my research at Osa Conservation because they have a large population of these Wrens right next to their station.
At this first stage of my PhD I am beginning to describe how juveniles from each sex start to learn and practice their vocalizations. So far I am seeing that in the earlier stages vocalizations are quite atypical, in the intermediate stages single individuals are performing whole duets, and in the latter stages individuals are singing with siblings and their parents. Initially, they sing both male type or female type songs interchangeably. In the latter stages individuals mostly stick to one type of vocalization, either male or female depending on their sex. This means that juveniles need a rehearsal period to learn how to duet and that the interactions with sibling and adults while practicing is essential. I believe investigating the relationship between social influences and duets is important in understanding such an intriguing and complex behavior.
Esmeralda Quirós Guerrero
PhD Student-St. Andrews University, United Kingdom