Birds Singing Duets

Bird Facts
Even in the noisiest of conditions birds can not only recognise the sound of members of their own species, but also of other individuals in their own flocks.

Breeding partners frequently combine two songs into one in a call-and-response (much like the game of Marco Polo) that's so precisely timed with seamless delivery, that it sounds like one bird sound.

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Ornithology discovered that when the partner begins to sing, the nerve cell activity in the brain of the singing bird changes and synchronises with its partner.

In a recent study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team of researchers studying brain activity of singing plain-tailed wrens made the astounding discovery that the species synchronises their frenetically paced duets, by inhibiting the song-making regions of their partner's brain as they exchange phrases.

Why do birds duet? There are many theories - one being that it is a way of keeping the partner bird in check. The male red-backed fairy-wren, a highly promiscuous species, sings a duet with its mate to ward off rival male approaches.