The uses and implications of avian vocalizations for conservation planning

Rebecca Lewis, Leah Williams, Tucker Gilman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


There is a growing recognition that animal behaviour can impact wildlife conservation, but there have been few direct studies of animal behaviour during conservation programmes. However, a great deal of existing behavioural research can be applied in the context of conservation. Research on avian vocalizations provides an excellent example. The conspicuous nature of birds’ vocal behaviour makes it a useful tool for monitoring populations and measuring biodiversity, but the importance of vocalizations in conservation goes well beyond monitoring. Geographic song variants with population‐specific signatures, or dialects, can impact territory formation and mate choice. Dialects are influenced by both cultural evolution and natural selection and changes can accumulate even during the timescale of conservation interventions such as translocations, reintroductions, and ex situ breeding. Changes in dialects could create obstacles for conservation programmes that bring birds from multiple populations together, and so reduce the success of interventions. Here, we explain how existing birdsong research can be applied to conservation programmes, highlighting benefits and concerns that should be taken into account during conservation planning.

Article impact statement: Avian vocalizations are well studied but should be considered more both as a tool and potential hindrance in conservation interventions.
Original languageEnglish
JournalConservation Biology
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jan 2020


  • Behaviour
  • Conservation
  • Bioacoustics


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