Orphaned chicks learn how to sing from dawn chorus CD

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London, June 16 : Always thought that music lessons were only meant for human beings? Well then you better think again, for recordings of the dawn chorus are being used to help orphaned nestlings learn how to sing just like their parents.

Young birds, which have been separated from their families, are being played recordings of the dawn chorus, to teach them how to sing in tune.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Animals (RSPCA), who introduced these music lessons for the chicks have said that listening to the dawn chorus, including the calls of their own species, may help teach young birds the notes and calls.

Singing skills are vital to many birds, as a good performance will aid in proclaiming a territory or trying to attract a mate. In fact, there are those, for whom it even controls survival as well as an early death.

The music lessons comes in line with a study which claimed that captive birds were more prone to benefit from hearing songs by their own species.

"Birds learn to sing from their parents, so being reared in captivity can mean that they don't know how to sing properly. The ability to sing is extremely important to the males of most bird species because it is vital for them to form and then defend their own territory and find a mate. Female birds in many species choose a partner based on the way they sing," Times online quoted Tim Thomas, an RSPCA wildlife officer, as saying.

He added: "The study found that the majority of birds species benefit from being played birdsong - they listen to it and it helps them become good singers, which will in turn help them to survive when they are released."

In fact, all RSPCA wildlife rescue centres taking care of fledglings are now playing birdsong CDs hoping to release them back into the wild. Later, the released blackbirds will be radio-tracked for finding out the effectiveness of the music lessons.

This study, dealing with the effects of birdsong, pointed out that fledgelings' brains have an inherent ability to sing, but to become a pro at that, each bird needs to hear performances by its parents and other adults. In fact, it was found that young birds that are kept in isolation from adults of their species have a tendency to develop discordant or "abnormal songs" which may put off potential mates.

They also found that females sing less frequently than males but still there were a large number of females that showed a distinct preference to mate with the males that had the longest or most complex songs.

The researchers found that recordings of songs, which was no close to live performances by the parent birds, successfully helped majority of species of fledgelings to learn how to sing themselves.

"Environmental conditions during the early life stages of birds can have significant effects on the quality of sexual signals in adulthood, especially song, and these ultimately have consequences for breeding success and fitness," said the study.

The rescued birds are played the dawn chorus instead of single species recordings, which would enable the fledgelings to identify the songs of their own species from the general din.

The RSCA also advised members of the public that not to mistake all the fledgelings seen on the ground as abandoned, as there are many who were still being fed by their mothers.

Mr Thomas said: "At this time of year we get thousands of fledgelings brought in by members of the public who see them on the ground, not able to fly, and assume they have been abandoned. But very often the mother is near by and is still feeding them. The best thing to do is to leave them alone but watch from a distance and call the RSPCA only if you're sure they're in trouble."

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