Good Fathers Sing Simple Songs

Good Fathers Sing Simple Songs


By Nicole Buckler


For all the single ladies, all the singles ladies, looking to attract a good guy to be your baby-daddy, there might be some precious advice here.

Today our lesson in male-female politics is going look at birds. And not just any old birds. We are going to discover a few things about the Chinese Hume Warbler.

The female Chinese Hume Warbler is attracted to males who sing simple songs. This is different from usual bird behaviour. The more common preference among female birds generally is to choose males who sing the most complex songs. But why does the female Chinese Hume Warbler like her men to be simple? Because it relates to a nesting behaviour that gives her offspring a greater chance of surviving.

Chinese Hume Warbler males with inconspicuous, short, simple songs have a nesting behaviour that the female birds dig, according to research published in the open access journal Avian Research.

This subspecies of the Hume Warbler is found in central China. And it is like humans. A lot. It is a monogamous species. Both parents feed and raise the offspring together, like the Irish do. You even see Irish dads in the park these days, with their three kids, one kid is upside on the swings, showing their undies to everyone, one is eating grass, and Dad is changing the nappy of the third on the picnic table, gagging from the stink. There are a lot of similarities between Irish Dads and the Chinese Hume Warbler.

As this type of Warbler is a ground-nesting species, it is particularly vulnerable to predation. So the females seem to judge potential male partners based on subtle characteristics that are advantageous to minimise their babies getting eaten by other bigger, hungrier animals.


Chinese Hume Warbler Credit: J.M.Garg

Dr. Yue-Hua Sun from the Institute of Zoology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences said that most warblers are accomplished singers with complex songs and large repertoires. “However, the Hume Warbler sings extremely simple songs, of which it only has two: a doubled whistle note and a long low buzz.”

So why are the songs so short and simple in the Hume Warbler? It is thought that a shorter song could be better for territorial defence, allowing the males to hear their competitors’ responses and listen out for danger. They can’t listen well to what is going on around them if they are bashing out their own song in a never-ending format.

Here’s another interesting nugget of info. The males with more concise songs were also bigger. These dudes are way too tough to hang about singing like a wuss. Females that chose large males whose songs are shorter with a faster increase in volume, tended to lay their eggs earlier and produce more surviving young. The earlier-hatched nestlings grew up faster, probably benefitting from higher feeding rates or better food. It is also supposed that the dudes with the short songs may occupy better territories with better food resources and better nest sites.

So how can we apply this to human dating? We can’t, because we are different creatures. Or are we? We need to ask ourselves, do the showiest males have the best genes after all?

Maybe it’s time to stop chasing that show pony with the neon guitar amp on full volume and go for the guy in the corner with the acoustic guitar. He might be a hipster, but hey, he will probably change nappies on picnic tables. And sing to himself while he does it.






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