Are Male House Wrens (Troglodytes aedon) Open-ended or Closed-ended Learners?

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The Ohio State University

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Songbirds are typically classified as either 'open-ended' learners or 'closed-ended' learners. Open-ended learners can expand their vocalizations even as mature adults; whereas, closed-ended learners generally develop songs within their first year with few changes after that. Knowing whether House Wrens are open-ended learners or closed-ended learners is important because song may affect a male's reproductive success through indicating the quality of the signaler. The purpose of this study was to determine if male House Wren (Troglodytes aedon) songs change with age or experience. If House Wrens are 'closed-ended' learners, they should have consistent song between first and second nests within each year and between first nests in different years. If House Wrens are 'open-ended' learners, they should show consistent changes in song length, rate and frequency range. Male House Wren song was recorded during the incubation stage with a microphone attached to the pole that holds the nest box. Song rate (#songs/minute), duration (length of each song), and frequency were analyzed from the recordings. We found that there was an increase in song rate between years, but this was not enough evidence to say males House Wrens are open-ended learners due to possible familiarity with the study site allowing them to spend less time foraging and more time singing. Future research may suggest that human noise pollution, climate or weather changes, or experience could possibly affect their singing.


Tied for the Ohio Biological Survey Award for best student presentation at the Ohio Avian Research Conference in Granville, OH.


House Wren, Songbird, open-ended learner, closed-ended learner, learned song