The study was conducted on Australian pied butcherbirds (cractus nigrogularis), which according to Prof. Constance Scharff, a biologist from Freie Universität, are also called flute birds due to their particularly beautiful singing that can often be heard for hours on end after midnight and into the early morning. Scharff participated in a multidisciplinary team that included biologist Ofer Tchernichovski, his doctoral student Eathan Janney, engineer Lucas Parra, all from the City College of New York, musician and writer David Rothenberg from the New Jersey Institute of Technology as well as violinist and musicologist Hollis Taylor Macquarie University in Sydney. Hollis Taylor, who has perfect pitch, had been transcribing the songs of butcherbirds for years and noticed that they seemed to follow musical principles. The findings of this study are the first to support her theory with statistical data. "Butcherbirds behave almost like jazz musicians, who improvise between repetition and novelty," said Scharff. These findings suggest that musical variety, which captivates the listener, follows similar principles in songbirds and in humans.
An Australian butcherbird singing
Credit: Hollis Taylor
Sound recording: Nocturnal singing of a butcherbird.
Recorded near Trephina Gorge, Northern Territory, Australia on August 27, 2016, at 5.11 a.m. by Hollis Taylor.
The photo and sound recording may be downloaded and used by journalists free of charge in connection with reporting on the findings in this press release and provided that due credit is given.
Janney E, Taylor; H, Scharff; C, Rothenberg; D, Parra; LC, Tchernichovski O. (2016): “Temporal regularity increases with repertoire complexity in the Australian pied butcherbird’s song" in: Royal Society Open Science. 3: 160357. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsos.160357
Prof. Constance Scharff, PhD, Department of Biology, Chemistry, Pharmacy, Freie Universität Berlin, Tel.: +49 30 838-53869, Email: email@example.com