Birds Do It…

…but I don’t think bees or educated fleas do it. Sing duets, that is.

In fact, scientists study this phenomenon. With birds, dueting is believed to be either in response to agonistic acts such as territorial disputes or cooperative acts such as bonding and mating. Patricia Arrowood studied canary-winged parakeets to determine to what extent dueting is important in forming pairs. Though these parakeets exhibit cooperative dueting, Arrowood could not confirm that it is necessary to bonding; it appears duets are more critical to defense for those birds.

David Logue recently learned that black-bellied wrens perform duets in a variety of situations, such as territorial conflicts and nest building. He notes that males use duetting to locate their mates during territorial conflicts. Females respond to males with specific duet codes that do not change over time or with new mates.

Besides the agonistic response and cooperative aspects of dueting, other aspects of bird duets that have been studied include the study of geographical dialects (Wright and Dorin). But the use of duets in both war and peace, to borrow from a recent article in Science News suggests that the fundamental question of the role of duets remains the high priority.

An interesting tidbit I learned is from a spectrogram by Arrowood that shows the vocalizations of dueting pair of canary-winged parakeets. The two voices blend together and could easily be mistaken for one–an interesting survival technique. (The spectrograms can be seen on page 169 in Animal Vocal Communication: A New Approach).

While demonstrating a biological imperative for dueting is not important for my purposes, I like to consider what makes it a compelling art form from as many angles as possible.



Arrowood, Patricia Cates. “Pairing and dueting in Canary-Winged Parakeets, Brotogeris v. versicolurus P.L.S. Muller (AVES: PSITTACIDAE) (BONDING, VOCAL COMMUNICATION)”. Ph.D. diss., University of California, Davis, 1986

Logue, David M. “Duet structure and the adaptive significance of coordinated singing in the black-bellied wren”. Ph.D. diss., Colorado State University, 2004.

Milius, Susan. “Birds Duet to Fight and Seek.” Science News. Web edition, September 5, 2008.

Owings, Donald Henry and Eugene S. Morton. Animal Vocal Communication: A New Approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

Wright, Timothy F. and Melinda Dorin. “Pair Duets in the Yellow-Naped Amazon (Psittaciformes: Amazona auropalliata): Responses to Playbacks of Different Dialects.” Ethology 107, no. 2 (December 20, 2001): 111-124.


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One Response to “Birds Do It…”

  1. Harmonic Convergence « Musical Mutterings Says:

    […] This reminds me of the bird duet phenomena I found earlier. […]

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