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How do birds learn to sing? – Partha Mitra

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A brown thrasher knows a thousand songs. A wood thrush can sing two pitches at once. A mockingbird can match the sounds around it — including car alarms. These are just a few of the 4,000 species of songbirds. How do these birds learn songs? How do they know to mimic the songs of their own species? Are they born knowing how to sing? Partha P. Mitra illuminates the beautiful world of birdsong.

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TED-Ed Animation lessons feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Partha Mitra
  • Director Lisa LaBracio
  • Script Editor Eleanor Nelsen
  • Character Designer Tara Sunil Thomas
  • Animator Lisa LaBracio
  • Sound Designer Weston Fonger
  • Associate Producer Elizabeth Cox
  • Content Producer Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Producer Alex Rosenthal
  • Narrator Addison Anderson

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Additional Resources for you to Explore
Interested in looking at microscopic images of zebra finch brains? This website contains high resolution images showing neuronal cell bodies and myelinated axons in the zebra finch brain.

Interested in learning more about the auditory development of songbirds? This scientific report investigates the significance of early auditory experience in juvenile birds.

This Smithsonian piece explores the effects of “embryonic learning” in zebra finches, who often sing to their eggs.

Produced by the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology, this video captures young zebra finches memorizing the songs of their fathers.

Are humans like birds? The Nature journal discusses how babies learn to babble like birds learn to sing.

The following birdsong recordings from The Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology were used in this lesson:
Toxostoma rufum; Maryland, United States; 13 April 1997; Wilbur L. Hershberger; ML 84769.
Brown Thrasher 1 MD Song.wav: Toxostoma rufum; Maryland, United States; 21 April 1998; Wilbur L. Hershberger; ML 94281.
Wood Thrush 4 NY Song.wav: Hylocichla mustelina; New York, United States; 15 May 1951; Arthur A. Allen, Peter Paul Kellogg; ML 11316.

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About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animation lessons feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Partha Mitra
  • Director Lisa LaBracio
  • Script Editor Eleanor Nelsen
  • Character Designer Tara Sunil Thomas
  • Animator Lisa LaBracio
  • Sound Designer Weston Fonger
  • Associate Producer Elizabeth Cox
  • Content Producer Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Producer Alex Rosenthal
  • Narrator Addison Anderson

Share

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