Song characteristics in cirl buntings

Cirl buntings (Emberiza cirlus)

​Dr Sarah Collins is currently investigating population differences in song characteristics in cirl buntings (Emberiza cirlus). In the UK the cirl bunting is found only within the South Hams, Devon, and in a reintroduced population in Cornwall. As bird song is partly learned there is the possibility that cultural evolution could lead to marked song differences (accents), and/or loss of song variants in some populations as a result of these fragmented populations.

Bird song performs an important function and is used to both attract females and defend territories. The main focus of Dr Collins' research is to determine whether small or reintroduced populations have a limited 'vocabulary' and, whether communication between individuals from different populations is likely to be impaired.