Hummingbird Vocal Learning
Biology 342 Fall 2015
Alex Loukides and Hannah McConnell
Populations of hummingbirds in different geological locations have slightly different songs. There are genetic correlations to these differences between the different populations of these hummingbirds. While no hummingbird species have been shown not to be vocal learners, not all species display the same complexity and variety in the songs they learn. The white-throated hummingbird, Leucochloris albicollis, sings with simple syllables and syntax; the sombre hummingbird, Aphantochroa cirrochloris, sings simple syntax but complex syllables; and the rufous-breasted hermit, Glaucis hirsuta, sings with complex syllables and syntax. Not enough data has been collected to determine whether these differences apply to genera or only species. There are three primary hypotheses as to the evolutionary history of vocal learning in class Aves.
Figure 1: Phylogenic tree of avian species that have vocalizations. The three species in red are those that have vocal learning. (Christopher Petkov and Erich Jarvis - Petkov, CI; Jarvis ED (2012). "Birds, primates, and spoken language origins: behavioral phenotypes and neurobiological substrates". Front. Evol. Neurosci. 4:12.)