American swamp sparrows have a special ability. This has been established by research carried out by a couple of universities in London and another from North Carolina. It was revealed that these birds which are found in the marshes of the north-eastern United States are great mimics and have been whistling the same songs for hundreds of years. These birds can copy and repeat the songs sung by their elders to near perfection.

The Daily Mail UK reports that the cultural tradition of these birds is probably more stable than that of humans. Of course, they do not select songs at random but pick those that are relatively more common.

This was believed to be a unique trait of human beings, but swamp sparrows also follow that logic.

Swamp sparrows are like humans

The research concluded that the swamp sparrows learn like humans. Dr. Robert Lachlan, lead author of the study explained this phenomenon. He said that the cultural behavior of animals is similar to that of humans. Birds usually learn their songs from other members of their species. This is quite like humans, where cultures evolve through people who share the same dialect to create the bonding in a society.

In the case of this species of bird in the United States, it has successfully acquired the power to combine accurate learning and conformist bias. As a result, it has been able to maintain the tradition of singing some common song types for 'extraordinarily long' periods of time.

The songs these birds sing today might be the same ones their previous generations have been singing for centuries. The study was carried out on song repertoires of 615 of these birds in six locations.

Wetlands of North America and swamp sparrows

National Geographic noted that the team recorded the melodic calls of 615 males between 2008 and 2009 and used acoustic analysis software to examine the calls in detail.

They broke each song down into minor elements and concluded that hardly two percent of the birds deviated from the musical status quo.

Another discovery the scientists made was that the young ones could mimic the songs that the elders sang. This would tend to suggest that they also know how to preserve their cultural traditions like humans do.

It is interesting to know that they are choosy about the songs because they select those that they hear most often. The scientists could use this study as a base to understand the effects of the loss of natural habitat on the cultural evolution of songbirds.