Date: January 30, 2017
Source: University of Miami
Karla Rivera-Cáceres, a University of Miami biology graduate student, plays a harmonious duet of singing wrens from a recording she captured out in the field during a recent trip to Costa Rica.
"The song sounds like one bird but if you listen closely, it's a male and female wren singing a duet in perfect unison," said Rivera-Cáceres.
Along with songbirds, many animal species perform duets, an uncommon vocal interaction that can occur between mated or unmated species, such as frogs and crickets. But the coupled wrens Rivera-Cáceres recorded in Costa Rica sing alternating phrases, or parts, of the song so smoothly and with such complexity and fast tempo that the untrained ear may hear just a single bird.
For years, Rivera-Cáceres studied the "duet codes" (non-random association of song types) of paired wrens and wondered if the ability to perform their complex and seamless music was a skill the birds were born with or learned during juvenile or adult stages of life. Now, after two months of intense listening in Costa Rica, she knows that they can learn new songs with new partners, even as adults. She says the newly learned songs are akin to prenuptial agreements.