Capturing song diversity in African weaverbirds

Dr. David C. Lahti, Queens College, City University of New York

Report 1

Capturing song diversity in African weaverbirds

Clive Barlow, David Lahti, and colleagues are starting to get a handle on the complex song of the African Village Weaverbird.

Capturing song diversity in African weaverbirds

A female village weaver at a station we have set up to attract individual birds away from the colony so we can catch them vocalizing singly.

Our project on weaverbird song, which began in Sept 2016 and is set to end in June 2018 (pre-publication) as per our grant application, is proceeding well. However, we have had to move portions of our work around due to two sorts of constraints-- one in the field and one in the lab. In the field, breeding was delayed at first due to odd weather, but we have been recording wonderfully since January. We know have hundreds of good songs, which are waiting for analysis.

The songs were to be at least pre-analyzed by this month, however, the software we use in the lab is specialized for tonal songs, and is performing poorly on weaver song that has not only diphony (two notes being sung at the same time), but also a lot of harmonics and broadband elements (clicks, rattles). We knew weaver song would be complex and difficult to quantify, but it was anyone's guess how we would solve this problem once we got songs in the lab. I have decided to switch software to Sound Analysis Pro (Ofer Tchernichovski), as that was designed for zebra finch songs and so can deal well with these elements. However, to get a student in Ofer's lab learning how to use that software will have to wait until this September. In the meantime recording and data manipulation will continue, although there's very little we can say about the songs themselves until we can analyze them.

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