Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Starlings know grammar?

Scientists at the University of California at San Diego say a non-native species that's usually vilified by birders recognizes grammar in birdsong. The study will appear in Nature on Thursday.

The European starling, a tiny virtuoso, has the ability to learn and recognize a feature of grammar that has long been thought to be unique to human languages, researchers report in a new study. ...

"Our research is a refutation of the canonical position that what makes human language unique is a singular ability to comprehend these kinds of patterns," said the leader of the new study, Timothy Gentner of the University of California at San Diego.
Will this improve starlings' popularity among birders?

European Starlings courtesy of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service


Anonymous Mike said...

Nothing short of a mass migration overseas can improve starling's popularity among American birders! They've kind of grown on me, though.

April 27, 2006 8:18 AM  
Anonymous Pamela said...

I was not at all surprised by this "discovery." I've assumed ever since I started listening to starlings that they have a capacity for complex communication, as do a lot of birds: blue jays, crows, ravens, and many others just in my neighbourhood. Does it make me like starlings better? I respect them as interesting and successful birds, but their complex songs and calls (and occasional mimicry)get in my way when I'm trying to listen for new arrivals and learn bird song.

April 29, 2006 5:15 PM  

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