Birdsong dialect patterns explained using magnetic domains

James Burridge, Steven Kenney

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The songs and calls of many bird species, like human speech, form distinct regional dialects. We suggest that the process of dialect formation is analogous to the physical process of magnetic domain formation. We take the coastal breeding grounds of the Puget Sound white crowned sparrow as an example. Previous field studies suggest that birds of this species learn multiple songs early in life, and when establishing a territory for the first time, retain one of these dialects in order to match the majority of their neighbours. We introduce a simple lattice model of the process, showing that this matching behaviour can produce single dialect domains provided the death rate of adult birds is sufficiently low. We relate death rate to thermodynamic temperature in magnetic materials, and calculate the critical death rate by analogy with the Ising model. Using parameters consistent with the known behavior of these birds we show that coastal dialect domain shapes may be explained by viewing them as low temperature stripe states.
Original languageEnglish
Article number062402
JournalPhysical Review E
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2016


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