Title

Micro-dialects in Savannah Sparrow

Standing

Undergraduate

Type of Proposal

Oral Research Presentation

Challenges Theme

Open Challenge

Faculty

Faculty of Science

Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Daniel Mennill

Abstract/Description of Original Work

Song is an important communication signal used by birds and plays an essential role in their life history, including territorial defence and breeding activities. To facilitate this communication, it is common for bird song to vary geographically within a given species. Song dialects occur when geographic variation among song types has distinct boundaries. Research on song dialects has traditionally focused on macrogeographic scales. To determine if dialects can exist on a micro-scale in an isolated population, we recorded and measured characteristics, song structure, and the pattern of geographic variation of Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis) songs. Songs were recorded in May and June in 2017, 2018, and 2019 during the breeding season on Kent Island, New Brunswick. Our results suggest that bird populations are organized into regions of similar-sounding individuals. Birds were more likely to sound similar to their closest neighbour than individuals elsewhere on the island. Thus, significant song variation in Savannah Sparrows appears to occur at a population scale across small geographical distances, exhibiting a micro-dialect. This study provides evidence that dialect patterns, similar to those that occur on a large geographical scale, contribute to the expression of a micro-dialect. This research establishes a foundation for future studies on the function of micro-dialects and the maintenance of vocal learning throughout the animal kingdom.

Share

COinS
 

Micro-dialects in Savannah Sparrow

Song is an important communication signal used by birds and plays an essential role in their life history, including territorial defence and breeding activities. To facilitate this communication, it is common for bird song to vary geographically within a given species. Song dialects occur when geographic variation among song types has distinct boundaries. Research on song dialects has traditionally focused on macrogeographic scales. To determine if dialects can exist on a micro-scale in an isolated population, we recorded and measured characteristics, song structure, and the pattern of geographic variation of Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis) songs. Songs were recorded in May and June in 2017, 2018, and 2019 during the breeding season on Kent Island, New Brunswick. Our results suggest that bird populations are organized into regions of similar-sounding individuals. Birds were more likely to sound similar to their closest neighbour than individuals elsewhere on the island. Thus, significant song variation in Savannah Sparrows appears to occur at a population scale across small geographical distances, exhibiting a micro-dialect. This study provides evidence that dialect patterns, similar to those that occur on a large geographical scale, contribute to the expression of a micro-dialect. This research establishes a foundation for future studies on the function of micro-dialects and the maintenance of vocal learning throughout the animal kingdom.