This Bird Has Been Singing the Same Song for 1,000 Years
The American swamp sparrow’s amazing ability to pass down its song perfectly is an example of handing down a cultural tradition, scientists say.
Every summer, the melodic whistles of thousands of American swamp sparrows echo across North America’s wetlands. These little brown birds may know just a few songs, but they know them well. In fact, they haven’t changed their set list in more than 1,000 years, according to a new study.
Scientists have discovered evidence that the American swamp sparrow, Melospiza georgiana, has likely been singing the same songs for a millennium. The young sparrows mimic the songs sung by their elders so accurately that their musical repertoire has remained relatively unchanged for all that time. Now, scientists suggest that these sparrows preserve their cultural traditions as efficiently as humans do, if not more so. The team reports the findings Wednesday in