Sparrow Song Goes ‘Viral’

White-throated sparrows in British Columbia are whistling a new tune and it’s going viral across Canada.

What started as a minor change to a common song has now morphed into a continent-wide phenomenon before our very ears. “As far as we know, it’s unprecedented,” says biologist Ken Otter from the University of Northern British Columbia, Canada.

“We don’t know of any other study that has ever seen this sort of spread through cultural evolution of a song type.”

While it’s not unusual for populations of sparrows and other birds to change their tunes, it usually remains a regional dialect. It certainly doesn’t spread like the one from BC. “To our knowledge, this is an unprecedented rate of song-type transition in any species of birds.”

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