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Master's Thesis offered at the MPI Ornithology

Vocal Turn-Taking in Juvenile Nightingales

12.02.2021 – 22.05.2021

Bachelor/Master Thesis - Vocal Turn-Taking in Juvenile Nightingales

Vocal communication is a complex behavior which requires the processing of auditory input, the production of motor signals as well as the precisely timed coordination of these tasks. To investigate vocal sensorimotor integration we are studying vocal interactions of songbirds.

Adult male European Nightingales (Luscinia megarhynchos) perform competitive vocal turn-taking with their neighbors to attract females during breeding season, constantly adjusting their own vocal signals while singing against each other. Their songs are learned during a critical period during which juvenile birds listen to the song of a tutor and memorize it. By repeating and practicing those tutor songs, the birds gradually modify their plastic vocalizations until finally producing a mature, crystallized song.


How complex and precisely timed turn-taking develops during song learning is unknown. Around 2-3 weeks after hatching, nightingale chicks start to vocalize in a turn-taking like fashion. To investigate this behavior, we plan to use an audio/video recording set up to monitor the vocal development and the vocal interactions of hand raised juvenile nightingales. By aligning video to audio we will assign single vocalizations to a particular individual and quantify the degree of turn-taking in juvenile birds. This experiment will reveal the ontogeny of a complex vocal interaction like turn-taking.


We are currently looking for a highly motivated bachelor/master student with a strong interest in animal behavior and vocal communication. Previous experience in animal handling and acoustic/video analysis is preferred, dedication to work with juvenile animals is required.


Students are encouraged to apply with a short CV and a letter of motivation until the 25th of February 2021.
Starting April / May 2021
Contact information
Dr. Daniela Vallentin Anna Proß
Daniela.vallentin@orn.mpg.de apross@orn.mpg.de