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Parrots learn their calls from their parents; not born with them


In “Why Do Parrots Talk? Venezuelan Site Offers Clues” (Science, 22 July 2011) Virginia Morell explains

Researchers have discovered details of the parrotlets’ ecology and life histories, and the project has now entered a new phase focusing on their communicative skills. Last week, researchers reported that the contact calls of wild parrotlet nestlings—vocalizations that function much like a name—are not genetically programmed. Instead, they learn these calls from their parents, almost like human children learning their names. It is the first study to provide experimental evidence for learned vocalizations in wild parrots.

Not sure about the “names” claim. Do the parrotlets associate these calls with themselves? Attach significance to them? Keep them through life?

That the calls wouldn’t be genetically programmed is no surprising find. Consider this starling:

Needless to say, that bird’s unlikely message was not genetically programmed. There is a section of a neighborhood in Toronto, Canada, where starlings have routinely sounded like goldfinches or squirrels – possibly because people who would not throw food to starlings (regarded as nuisance birds) threw it to goldfinches and squirrels. Some wonder how birds with so little brain can be so smart.

And if what Darwinists say is all true, why are chimps persistently stupid?


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