Mockingbirds and overchoice

14 04 2010

So I went for lunch today in a park near where I work. There is a (or at least one) mockingbird who hangs out there. It’s very entertaining to listen to, as it can make all sorts of interesting bird sounds, including one trill that sounds a lot like a cellphone ringer.

But I was wondering: how does it decide what to sing? Ordinary birds have two options available to them: (a) chirp; (b) be silent. But mockingbirds can make all sorts of sounds – how do they choose which ones, and in what order? Are they improvising – doing what seems natural to them at the time?

The Song Of The Day is “Pure” by the Lightning Seeds – harmless, cheerful, frothy.

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