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Bird Song: Biological Themes and Variations

New topics include interactive playback, new pathways and gene expression in the brain and chorusing
Has a wealth of clearly explained and illustrated examples, that are useful for both teaching and research
Offers a modern evolutionary and functional interpretation that will enable the reader to understand why bird song is a good model for scientific study

By: CK Catchpole (Author), PJB Slater (Author)

335 pages, illustrations, tables

Cambridge University Press

Hardback | May 2008 | Edition: 2 | #173726 | ISBN-13: 9780521872423
Availability: In stock
NHBS Price: £50.99 $62/€57 approx

About this book

Bird song is one of the most remarkable and impressive sounds in the natural world, and has inspired not only students of natural history, but also great writers, poets and composers. Extensively updated from the first edition, the main thrust of Bird Song: Biological Themes and Variations is to suggest that the two main functions of song are attracting a mate and defending territory. It shows how this evolutionary pressure has led to the amazing variety and complexity we see in the songs of different species throughout the world.

Writing primarily for students and researchers in animal behavior, the authors review over 1000 scientific papers and reveal how scientists are beginning to unravel and understand how and why birds communicate with the elaborate vocalizations we call song. Highly illustrated throughout and written in straightforward language, Bird Song: Biological Themes and Variations also holds appeal for amateur ornithologists with some knowledge of biology.

"[...] the well-known authors and experts, Professor Clive Catchpole and Professor Peter Slater thoroughly achieve their stated aims in this excellent book [...] having read it avidly from cover to cover, I think it is an excellent read [...] if [...] you are at all interested in why and how birds vocalise, go out and buy this book."
- Wildlife Sound

"By comprehensively covering all aspects of birdsong, this second edition of the book continues to fill a gap in the literature and certainly deserves a wide readership."
– Ole Naesbye Larsen, IBIS – The Journal of the British Ornithologists' Union


1. The study of bird song
2. Production and perception
3. How song develops
4. Getting the message across
5. When do birds sing?
6. Recognition and territorial defence
7. Sexual selection and female choice
8. Themes and variations
9. Variation in time and space

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Clive Catchpole is currently Professor of Animal Behaviour at Royal Holloway, University of London. He has written, broadcast and researched on many aspects of bird ecology and behaviour for more than 30 years and published over 100 books, articles and scientific papers. He has studied birds in many parts of the world and been a visiting researcher at the Max-Planck-Institute for Ornithology in Germany and the California Academy of Sciences in the USA.

Peter Slater is Kennedy Professor of Natural History at St Andrews University in Scotland. He is a former Editor of Animal Behaviour and of Advances in the Study of Behavior and is a Past President of the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour, which association awarded him its medal in 1999. In 1991 he was elected to Fellowship of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. He is the author of around 150 scientific papers and several books, and has been studying acoustic communication, largely in birds, for 30 years.

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