do birds have perfect pitch

Sequence Recognition at Novel Pitch Levels.

We assessed the subjects’ capacity to identify novel stimuli that maintained the relative pitch and timbral pattern of each training sequence after they had attained asymptotic performance on differentiating ascending from descending pitch sequences in the first training set (Materials and Methods,, and Audio Files S4 and S5) Our hypothesis was that the training stimuli’s unique patterns of shifting spectral shape would allow for the recognition of the tone sequences even when they were transposed to unfamiliar pitch levels. Contrary to this theory, test sessions saw the subjects maintain extremely high performance on training stimuli (range, 87). 2–97. 0% correct; mean = 93. 7% correct), extremely slight adjustments to the test stimuli’s pitch resulted in a marked decline in recognition performance (%)20 Each subject’s average performance on sequences made up of original pitches varied from 45 4–58. 4% correct (mean = 50. 2% correct), which was significantly below the training sequences’ performance and did not statistically differ from the chance-based results of the binomial tests. The sequence became unrecognizable even with very slight pitch changes that put the test stimuli completely within the training stimuli’s range. Specifically, two interleaved stimuli (starting at B4 and C#5, corresponding to shift amounts of one and three semitones; ) were one semitone below and one semitone above pairs of training stimuli, respectively, yet recognition of these stimuli was at chance (mean of interleaved stimuli = 49. 2% percent right) and significantly below the recognition performance on the training sequences interspersed throughout test sessions [Wilcoxon rank-sum Z(25)%20=%20%E2%80%934 13, P < 0. 0001; Materials and Methods].

These preliminary findings suggest that frequency-shifted versions of spectrotemporally complex tone sequences are not recognized by starlings. That is to say, even though they easily picked up on the difference between ascending and descending pitch sequences, which they further identified by their pattern of spectral shape variation over time, discrimination was severely disrupted by an upward or downward frequency shift of even a single semitone. Therefore, it doesn’t seem that the birds use the tone sequences’ redundant spectral information pattern to help them recognize transposed sequences. At first look, these findings seem to offer compelling evidence in favor of the widely held belief that songbirds are predisposed to recognize tone sequences using AP cues. In fact, even though spectral shape variation on its own could be used to distinguish between the sequences, the results imply that the bias is especially strong when tone sequences exhibit it over time (22).

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Birds dont sing in a key. Keys are essentially just artistic creations of a sentient mind, though they have some basis in physics as human cultural constructs.

To be more precise, a parrot or other similar creature that mimics human speech is not nearly as “in key” as even the most average human vocalist.

Only because you’ve come to associate the sound of birdsong with pleasant things does it seem pleasant. Obviously, this is not unusual, but don’t mistake “pleasant-sounding” for “in key.” ” They are NOT the same. I suppose you could say that the sound of a babbling brook is pleasant, but its pitch isn’t even easily defined.

What you might be listening to are audible intervals between notes produced by a bird that I would describe as monophonic pitched songbird. Groups of these notes may be interpreted as though they were in a key; in fact, some composers have been known to do so (see Olivier Messiaen). Intervals between notes, however, do not place birdsong in a particular key because they always imply something completely different. The notes can seem to be “in key” because the intervals themselves are most likely based on the harmonic series, which is a common root attribute of human cultural tonality and the simplest way for physics to operate.

Bird song is not tonal. Read this paper by Wallins and Mercer. A key quote from them:

Additionally, Carol Whaling (document accessible via the same link) offers this ghostly plot:

which, as you can see, is not tonal in the sense that we understand music.

Since birdsong is not necessarily tonal, it cannot be considered out of key any more than non-tonal human speech However, just as many people can sing tonally, this does not imply that all birds cannot sing tonally occasionally. I’ve read Wallins and Mercer’s suggested article, and they do not rule out tonal birdsong. I have heard numerous blackbirds, in particular, produce (presumably preferred) tonal melodies over the years, using intervals that are exactly the same as those found in a human major or minor scale. I can’t say in what key (or even if a specific bird preferred a particular key) because I don’t have perfect pitch, but when I use tonic solfa, I seem to prefer the notes do-mi-so-la-do.

Depending on the bird, I guess? Some birds can sing harmoniously, tonally, and in tune. Right now, the bird outside my window is singing the same phrase over and over again, pausing between each verse (soh, mi, doh), a major descending chord in root position, and an ascending sixth (lah). Some birds make a more erratic and ethereal set of sounds, but that’s basic harmony, my people! And cry out in agony when you attempt to frighten them away from trees (such as lorikeets). A group of birds were tweeting incoherently in a large tree in a local park (St Kilda Gardens, Melbourne, Australia). The birds did not appear to settle on a single note. Suddenly, one bird took off and played a four-note dominant major ascending chord in root position, resolving it back to the main minor key with a vibrato on the final note (eg G, B, D, F, Eflat). I referred to it as the opera bird, but I don’t believe that was its scientific name. It was a vibrato. I would like to know if a bird can sing several different phrases at once and if birds can harmonize when they sing to each other. I hazard a yes, although my evidence is anecdotal. Though I’m fairly certain they’re local birds, I’ll use my binoculars to double check to make sure it’s not my neighbors whistling outside!

Birds do not seem to sound off-key or off-pitch, whatever you call it, when they sign because, higher up in the register, the scale length gets tighter, making it more difficult to distinguish off-key notes because the intervals are smaller. Despite the fact that harmony and melody are distinct concepts, they have a harmonic overtone, which makes the song more harmonic in that sense. reminds me of the tale of the Fox and the Crow, in which the Fox persuades the Crow to sing for him in the Tree, causing him to drop his cheese. Suddenly, as I’m trying to sing the song about why birds have fancy wings, I feel like I might have fallen victim to this exact scheme. But I Digress.

The sound is also more of a square or sawtooth type wave than a pure sinusoidal wave, as shown in the waveform and frequency response curves, which explains the chirp.

Birds do sing in key with music. A mourning dove wanted to sing along and would wait until the music entered his register, which is when I first noticed this about eighteen years ago when I was playing the piano. He was also in tune with the passage. In essence, the bird is reacting to the vibration, which forces him to be in time with the music. I was perplexed about this for a few years because the more birds I played for, the more sang along with it and were drawn to the tunes. However, birds also make other sounds that aren’t considered songs, and those calls, as well as their young’s cries for food, were always in tune.

I reduced it to the vibration reaction when, one evening, I was leaving a symphony concert and noticed that everyone in the audience was speaking in unison with the final chord that the orchestra was playing. (Even though I have perfect pitch, I had never found it useful for anything until I made these observations.) Moreover, during the outdoor classical concerts at Ravinia in Highland Park, Illinois, the cicadas that “sing” in the trees know the dynamics of the piece and rise and fall with the orchestra in addition to being in tune with the music.

Sequence Recognition with Novel Timbre.

Importantly, confirmation that AP really is the primary cue for tone sequence recognition requires evidence of positive generalization. That is, if our birds are using AP, then they should readily recognize ascending and descending tone sequences that match the pitch of the training stimuli but not their spectral shape. To test this idea, we also presented (during the same test sessions already described) sequences composed of tones with a novel piano timbre ( and Audio Files S6–S8) at the same pitch as two of the training sequences (the lowest pitch ascending–descending pair in ). If subjects use AP, recognition should generalize to these test sequences. This was not the case. As with alterations in pitch, altering the timbre of the training sequences reduced recognition performance to chance (mean = 53.5% correct; range, 47.7% correct to 57.4% correct; , gray circles). For all subjects, performance was well below recognition of the training sequences (mean = 93.7% correct; binomial test adjusted for multiple comparisons) and within the 95% confidence interval (CI) around chance (?41–59% correct, based on mean of 170.3 trials, corrected for multiple comparisons). Thus, changing the timbre of the tone sequences drove recognition to chance, even when the AP of the training sounds was preserved. Given these initial results, it is not surprising that performance was at chance for tone sequences with novel (piano) timbre at novel pitch levels shifted by ±1, ±3, ±6, ±8, and ±12 semitones relative to the training stimuli ( , black circles). Our observation that altering timbre while holding AP constant drives recognition to chance ( ) challenges the broadly held view that starlings use AP to recognize tone sequences.


Do birds sing out of tune?

Songbirds may need to practise singing every day to maintain the quality of their performance. Male zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) learn a unique song, usually from their father, in the first 90 days of their life.

Are parrots pitch perfect?

That depends on your definition of ‘perfect pitch’. They can hardly give you the name of the note you aurally present to it – but they may be able to reproduce a melody in pitch – even after a long time. Blackbirds and other birds stay true to the pitch of their call as well.

Can animals have perfect pitch?

Many animals have perfect pitch, such as gerbils, wolves, and bats.

Do birds sing in a certain key?

Authors including Rothenberg have claimed that birds sing on traditional scales as used in human music, but at least one songbird does not choose notes in this way.