HOW BIRDS LEARN TO SING by Barbara Ford

HOW BIRDS LEARN TO SING

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Despite the easy look and Ford's lackluster style, readers of How Birds Learn to Sing can come away with not only a fairly extensive answer to the question but also a glimpse of how scientists have pieced it together. Among the findings are that some species do learn, much as babies learn to speak, and that there is a critical period during which the learning must take place; further, the current belief is that such songbirds have an inborn plan of their species' songs, which is filled in by hearing adults sing and perfected by practice and feedback from their own attempts at imitation. Ford presents these conclusions bit by bit as they are reached by means of spectograph analysis and laboratory experiments, including operations to deafen birds at different points in their development and raising others from eggs to ensure that they never hear their parents' songs. (This last project was made possible by the researcher's wife who kept the birds near her kitchen, preparing their diet and feeding them every half hour all day and evening!) One feels that Ford might have found a smoother, more stimulating (and, in a few cases, less simplistic) way to integrate her lessons on scientific method (subjective and objective evidence, hypothesis, etc.) with her information on birdsong, but it is easy to become intrigued by the questions pursued and, to a point, answered here.

Pub Date: April 14th, 1975
Page count: 96pp
Publisher: Messner