• Hernandez, Alexandra M.
  • Pfaff, Jeremy A.
  • MacDougall-Shackleton, Elizabeth A.
  • MacDougall-Shackleton, Scott A.


Previous work suggests that early learning plays a role in auditory preferences of female songbirds. We explored whether early experience shapes preferences for local geographic song in female song sparrows (Melospiza melodia), a species that prefers local geographic song in adulthood. We hand‐reared females from two locations 450 km apart and controlled song exposure early in life. To examine the effects of experience and inherited factors on geographic song preferences, we used a counterbalanced design. Females from each location were tutored with either natal song (recorded from their location of capture) or non‐natal song (recorded from the other location) and their preferences for tutor vs. non‐tutor song assessed in adulthood. We also examined song preferences in isolate females reared with no song experience. We found that tutored females preferred their tutor song over non‐tutor song, regardless of their capture location. Furthermore, birds not exposed to song (isolates) had no geographic song preferences. Thus, song exposure early in life clearly plays an important role in adult female preferences for local song in this species.