Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Opposites do not attract

A study of budgerigar behavioural patterns has proved the old adage ‘opposites attract’ wrong.

University of California, Irvine, researchers found that the female budgie prefers a mate that sounds like her. Biologists Marin Moravec, Professor Nancy Burley and Professor Georg Striedter also observed that the males who paired with more similar sounding females gave more help when they were nesting. The small Australian parrots, which are commonly kept as pets, have a vastly wide range of contact calls. Earlier research has shown that the male of the species spontaneously imitates the calls of females that are possible mates. Additionally, females demonstrated that they prefer males that had been trained to produce calls similar to their own.

In the current study, female budgies preferred to pair with males that sounded like them at first meeting, before any imitation occurred.

The unusual characteristics of the budgie

Parrots display a rare gift, uncommon to other animals, of learning new imitations throughout their lifetime. Budgies are monogamous, highly social and are likely to use multiple aspects of vocalisations when choosing mates and maintaining long-term relationships. The new study has been important to our understanding of the social functions of vocal learning, the scientists said. It also provides an interesting avian example of a familiar mate choice strategy: choosing a mate with whom you have something in common.

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