Song Of The Antbird Reveals Avian Adultery

The female (left) and male antbird. i i

The female (left) and male antbird. Joe Tobias/Courtesy University of Oxford hide caption

itoggle caption Joe Tobias/Courtesy University of Oxford
The female (left) and male antbird.

The female (left) and male antbird.

Joe Tobias/Courtesy University of Oxford

Birds seem like models of monogamy — building their nests, hatching their eggs and raising their young together. But it turns out, in the avian world, adultery is not uncommon. And both males and females may have a wandering eye.

Ornithologists Nathalie Seddon and Joe Tobias of the University of Oxford have been studying the songs of the Peruvian warbling antbird. In their latest research, published in Current Biology, they report that an antbird couple will sing a harmonious duet when confronted by an intruding rival pair.

But if an unattached female enters the scene, the antbird "wife" starts jamming her mate's song. She interrupts her spouse with her own music, to his great frustration.

Dr. Seddon believes these findings could provide insight into the development of human music.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.