Deciphering Cowbirds’ Complex Song and Dance

In the bird world, male brown-headed cowbirds (Molothrus ater) perform a choreographed song and dance routine that would be the envy of any American Idol contestant.

Using sophisticated monitoring devices and high-speed video cameras, two biologists have revealed just how complex a routine it is. Their research is part of a broad effort to understand how the birds’ song and dance works as a communication tool and how songbirds communicate in general.