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Cardinal girls learn faster than boys

1:01pm, June 5, 2001

Female cardinals learn nearly as many songs as males but in only one-third the time, according to a new study that compared the results of his and her music lessons.

In most bird species in temperate climates, only the males sing. Among northern cardinals, however, both males and females become crooners. This unusual arrangement offers a great opportunity to explore gender differences, explains Ayako Yamaguchi, now at Yale University. Her earlier work documented subtle variations in the mature songs of male and female cardinals (SN: 8/29/98, p. 134).

To study differences in how the sexes learned those songs, Yamaguchi raised 26 youngsters in separate chambers. Over a year, each bird heard a sequence of recordings of at least 40 songs from adult cardinals.

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