Learned vocalizations in budgerigars (Melopsittacus undulatus): The relationship between contact calls and warble song

Hsiao Wei Tu, Michael S. Osmanski, Robert J. Dooling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The budgerigar (Melopsittacus undulatus) has an extraordinarily complex, learned, vocal repertoire consisting of both the long rambling warble song of males and a number of short calls produced by both sexes. In warble, the most common elements (>30%) bear a strong resemblance to the highly frequency-modulated, learned contact calls that the birds produce as single utterances. However, aside from this apparent similarity, little else is known about the relationship between contact calls and warble call elements. Here, both types of calls were recorded from four male budgerigars. Signal analysis and psychophysical testing procedures showed that the acoustic features of these two vocalizations were acoustically different and perceived as distinctive vocalizations by birds. This suggests that warble call elements are not simple insertions of contact calls but are most likely different acoustic elements, created de novo, and used solely in warble. Results show that, like contact calls, warble call elements contain information about signaler identity. The fact that contact calls and warble call elements are acoustically and perceptually distinct suggests that they probably represent two phonological systems in the budgerigar vocal repertoire, both of which arise by production learning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2289-2297
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics


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