redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online
While scientists had long believed that male hummingbirds learned the song they use to attract mates at an early age and used that one vocalization their entire life, new research from biologists at New Mexico State University (NMSU) suggests that some species are capable of changing their tunes later on in life.
According to a February 13 report from Stefan Sirucek of National Geographic, Marcelo Araya Salas and Timothy Wright recently observed some male long-billed hermit hummingbirds (Phaethornis longirostris) in Costa Rica altering their mating songs.
“In most cases this new song also matches those of neighbors,” explained Wright, whose research is funded in part by a grant from the National Geographic Society. “But occasionally a male will develop a brand-new song type,” he continued, noting that this marks “the first time such open-ended learning has been shown in a hummingbird.”
Wright said that he and his colleagues are now curious whether or not changing the type of song that they sing can actually help the male hummingbirds attract potential mates. Araya Salas, a graduate student in Wright’s lab, is reportedly now in the process of documenting additional song-changing events and whether or not they have any impact on a male’s ability to maintain their territory or hit it off with the ladies.