Animal Cognition

, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 677–688 | Cite as

Biological relevance of acoustic signal affects discrimination performance in a songbird

  • Marisa Hoeschele
  • Lauren M. Guillette
  • Christopher B. Sturdy
Original Paper

Abstract

The feebee song of the black-capped chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) is a two-note, tonal song that can be sung at different absolute pitches within an individual. However, these two notes are produced at a consistent relative pitch. Moreover, dominant birds more reliably produce songs with this species-typical interval, compared to subordinate birds. Therefore, we asked whether presenting the species-typical relative pitch interval would aid chickadees in solving pitch interval discriminations. We found that species-typical relative pitch intervals selectively facilitated discrimination performance using synthetic sine-wave stimuli. Using shifted feebee song notes from recordings of naturally produced songs, birds learned the discrimination in fewer trials overall compared to synthetic stimuli. These results may reflect greater generalization among stimuli that occur outside species-typical production parameters. In addition, although sex differences in performance are rarely observed in acoustic discriminations in chickadees, female chickadees performed more accurately compared to males.

Keywords

Black-capped chickadee Chickadee Biological relevance Song Feebee song Pitch Relative pitch Pitch interval Discrimination Operant conditioning 

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marisa Hoeschele
    • 1
  • Lauren M. Guillette
    • 1
  • Christopher B. Sturdy
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  2. 2.Centre for NeuroscienceUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada

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