Re-expression of songs deleted during vocal development in white-crowned sparrows, Zonotrichia leucophrys

Gerald E. Hough, Douglas A. Nelson, Susan F. Volman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


White-crowned sparrows learn and produce multiple song types as juveniles, but most indivi singing all except one by the end of the first singing season. This single song type is generally maintained throughout adulthood. We demonstrate that, at the start of the second and subsequent singing seasons, this species can recall songs that had been deleted during the first singing season. The re-expression of song occurred in both the oriantha and the gambelii subspecies. Although all our males recrystallized the original song in the second year, our results indicate a mechanism for seasonal song change without new song memorization. The traditional dichotomy of closed-ended versus open-ended learning is inadequate for birds that learn early in life but can change their song output seasonally. We suggest that species can exhibit a closed sensitive period for song memorization and first production, with the ability to recall deleted songs later in life. This type of learning, selective attrition followed by subsequent re-expression, may be used by some species currently considered open-ended learners. (C) 2000 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)279-287
Number of pages9
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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