Pavel Pipek is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Ecology at Charles University in Prague whose current focus is invasion ecology. Pavel and his colleagues have launched some really interesting research exploring the intersection of birdsong dialects and invasion ecology. Since this research has a strong citizen science component, we want to help Pavel spread the word:
What happens with birdsong during invasion of a new territory? To answer this question, a citizen science project looks for volunteers to record Yellowhammers (Emberiza citrinella) in New Zealand and Great Britain to evaluate distribution of their dialects.
Yellowhammer is a widespread, small and conspicuous songbird that ideal for studying functions of dialects in animal vocal communication. Its simple songs can be assigned to several dialects, broadly distributed in Europe but overlapping in a mosaic fashion. Most birds at a locality sing only one dialect, which seems locally stable over years.
Why Great Britain and New Zealand?
British Yellowhammers have been purposefully introduced to New Zealand in the 19th century and quickly colonised it. This provides good conditions for studying song cultural evolution during biological invasion, and tracking dialects spread. For this, song recordings from various parts of both countries are needed.
A Yellowhammer is easy to recognise, sings until late in the season, and its song can be recorded by many common gadgets (including smartphones, digital cameras, or voice recorders). Therefore, the general public can record yellowhammer songs in their vicinity, upload the recordings, and thus contribute to a large scale research project that would not
Can it work?
A similar citizen science project in the Czech Republic was a huge success. During two years, more than 1,700 recordings were obtained . Recording of Yellowhammer songs enriched daily walks, bike trips of family journeys of our volunteers. For some, collecting recordings from different locations and then plotting them on an interactive map became a real passion!
Yellowhammer photos by Petr Jan Juračka used with permission.