For some birds, chancy climates mean better singers

A survey of mockingbird species links variable environment and song complexity

By Susan Milius, 14:42 PM May 21, 2009

“You’ve got to suffer if you want to sing the blues” may apply to mockingbirds too.

In the Mimidae family, of mockingbirds and thrashers, the species with the more elaborate male courtship songs tend to be those living in the more challenging climates, says Carlos Botero of the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in Durham, N.C.

Virtuoso birdsong, Botero explains, means precision in repeated elements, abundant variety in tweets and trills plus dead-on mimicry of other sounds, whether f...

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