Many people know them as pets. It is also one of the most studied birds in science laboratories. But little is known about the environment and behavior in the wild. While the zebra sparrow can only be found in cages here, the bird can survive in the wild in Australia in very harsh conditions. Biologist Hugo Loening of Wageningen University has been fascinated by the zebra sparrow for years. For his doctoral research, he discovered that the bird in the wild sings differently than it has been known until now.
Why zebra sparrows sing in the wild was not yet clear. Loening discovered that birds sing very softly. Softer than known zebra finches sing in laboratory cages. The big question is what caused this difference. It is also remarkable that males in Australia continue to sing, even after the females have chosen a partner. Loning believes that singing plays a role in communicating about reproduction, among other things, but that it also has social functions beyond that. He also discovered that zebra sparrows sing a lot in the places where they congregate. Moreover, experiments in the wild show that, on average, zebra sparrows can only hear each other at a distance of nine metres.
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