Photograph by Gary Tucker
Our study Species
Adelaide’s warblers are little gray and yellow songbirds that live in Puerto Rico all year long. Since they never have to migrate, individuals can maintain the same territories year after year. Neighbors have long-lasting relationships, which they mediate with vocalizations, visual displays, and fights. The Birdsong Lab is working to make our study population of Adelaide’s warblers a model system for research on interactive vocalization, song type use, and song performance.
Song type use
Most songbirds can sing more than one type of song. For example, each male Adelaide's warbler has about thirty song types in his repertoire (click here to hear six different song types). We study song sequences in both solo singing and vocally interacting birds. Our goal is to improve our understanding of the function of song types. We are particularly interested in applying new ways of visualizing and analyzing song sequences to study social influences on song type choice.
Why do some birds sing so fast? Perhaps extreme sexual display behaviors, like fast singing, evolve because females prefer to mate with males that give more intense display than those that display more modestly. Female preferences for fast singing males could be adaptive if singing speed reliably indicates male quality (health, motor function, etc.). We study different kinds of ‘extreme’ singing behavior in Adelaide’s warbler to better understand the evolution of song structure and song type use.
David and his students have studied everything from personalities in giant cockroaches to resource competition in tadpoles. We have ongoing collaborative projects on wasps, Venezuelan troupials, and Puerto Rican parrots.