Developmental Origins of Sociality in Brown-Headed Cowbirds (Molothrus ater)

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Abstract

Five variables were studied relating to the emergence of sociality in hand-reared cowbirds (Molothrus ater): proximity, sex assortment, reactions to adults, head-down displays, and vocalizations. The authors were especially interested in female sociality because adult female birds influence male courtship, song content, and use through proximity, attention, and displays. The authors found that young female birds failed to show same-sex affiliation typical of the species at any point in the study. Brief introduction of adults did not affect social patterns. Adults used more head-down displays than juveniles, who used more displays with familiar peers. Directed and undirected singing emerged concurrently; directed singing was positively correlated with earlier hatching. This is the first demonstration of the need for early learning in the development of female sociality.

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