Regional Dialect in Nonmigratory Songbirds

Birds are everywhere. With approximately 10,000 species around the world, they have adapted to nearly every habitat on the planet. Passeriformes (songbirds) comprise the largest, most familiar family of feathered friends of all, their musical vocalizations filling the air. Birders, more commonly known as “bird-watchers” spend a great deal of time studying bird calls and songs. Each species has a unique voice, which often provides the fastest way to distinguish it from similar species. Black-capped and Carolina chickadees, for instance, are visually almost identical. Other than their ranges (the former residing north of the latter), their most diagnostic trait is their song.

But what if some birds– particularly certain widespread, nonmigratory passerine species– not only exhibit species-specific vocalizations, but also regional dialect within species? Now, with the help of online citizen-science based databases like eBird, it is possible to gather audio recordings of birds around the country. Furthermore, certain software allows birdsong recordings to be converted into spectrograms, a visualization of sound akin to musical notation that allows for easy, quantifiable comparison.

As a birder and biology student at Ivy Tech Community College, I will present the findings of my independent research on regional dialect in nonmigratory passerine birds.

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  • Paper Presentation
  • Biology
  • Songbirds are everywhere, each filling the air with their own familiar tunes. But what if some exhibit vocalizations unique not only to their species, but to their locality? Can a bird have a southern accent? Join me in an independent study of regional dialect in nonmigratory songbirds to find out.

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