Q. Why do birds change their tune? A. Some bird calls are to wake up their family and friends, some are to call the kids home, some are to attract mates, some are to assert dominance among a flock, and some are to warn kin of an encroaching predator. Even within a specific type of call, say, to attract a tempting young thing, some species will alter their tune to differentiate their call from the bird down the road with whom they are in competition. White-throated sparrows have especially variable calls. Ecologists don’t really know why some bird species have more variation in their tunes than others. Maybe they just feel like getting’ down and funky. Listen to a Cardinal call or a Robin next time you are on a walk in the park. See if you can hear how many birds are calling just by their different intonations. But be careful that you are not getting tricked by one bird calling several different tunes! Readers: E-mail your questions about the natural world to our resident Ecologist at: belle.bergner@earthlink.net.
by Belle Bergner