Victory songs are for the birds

Sports fans are not the only ones to celebrate a win with a rousing tune – a chirpy African bird does the same, researchers have revealed.

Mate pairs of the tropical boubou belt out their special victory song after they have deterred would-be invaders from their territory, suggest Ulmar Grafe and Johannes Bitz at the University of Würzburg, Germany.

The discovery was made by accident, the scientists happily admit. They were investigating the birds’ musical repertoire in the Ivory Coast when they noticed that whenever they packed up their equipment and left the bird territories, the birds would trill a particular tune.

To investigate this further, Grafe and Bitz then tried broadcasting recordings of the duets commonly used by boubous in territorial confrontations. They found most mate pairs that stood their ground against the recorded intruders burst into song shortly after the tape was switched off.

“There’s a whole neighbourhood of birds listening into these conflicts, so it’s important to advertise a victory,” says Grafe, a behavioural ecologist. “We think it’s not only to let the loser know they’ve lost, but to let others know that one has been victorious – it serves to lessen further conflicts over territory.”

He adds that there are few animals which vocally celebrate a win in this way. And the tropical boubou is the first documented to perform a duet. “It’s sort of like a rugby team, a whole team display – I don’t know of any other animal example,” he told New Scientist.

I’ll really be impressed when they can hum “We Will Rock You.”

Here is the full story. Thanks to for the pointer.


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