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Effects of the early social environment on song and preference learning in zebra finches

Songbirds as vocal learners learn their songs and song preference from social tutors⁠. Tutor choice for both song and preference learning are important to characterize for understanding individual learning performance and cultural transmission of song⁠.

Wei, J.
17 mei 2023
Thesis in Leiden Repository

It is unclear whether early learned song preferences are generalised to songs similar to the tutor song and how simple versus complex early social environment might affect tutor choice and learning contents⁠. This thesis addresses these questions in the zebra finch, the primary avian model for vocal learning studies, by reviewing the existing literature on song and preference learning and conducting three experiments⁠. In these experiments, family raised female zebra finches were tested with a stimulus set of four songs along a gradient of decreasing similarity with the song they learned early in life⁠. A breeding and song learning experiment comparing zebra finches raised with a single versus multiple tutors was conducted⁠. The results suggest that female zebra finches generalise their early learned preferences for a specific song to other unfamiliar songs along a gradient of similarity⁠. Social environment and individual differences can affect tutor choice for both song and preference learning in this colonial species⁠.

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