Auditory Sensitivity and Song Spectrum of the Common Canary (Serinus canarius)

Robert J. Dooling, James A. Mulligan, James D. Miller

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40 Scopus citations


The auditory sensitivity of one strain (Belgian Waterschlager) of common canary (Serinus canarius) was measured by behavioral audiometry. Four birds were trained by instrumental avoidance conditioning in a double-grille cage, and their thresholds for pure tones (0.25–9.0 kHz) were measured. Auditory sensitivity is greatest between 2.0 and 4.0 kHz with a possible maximum at 2.8 kHz, declines about 15 dB/oct for frequencies below 2.0 kHz, declines about 25 dB between 4.0 and 8.0 kHz, and 13 dB between 8.0 and 9.0 kHz. The acoustic power in the songs and calls of the Belgian Waterschlager falls primarily in the range 1.8–4.5 kHz as do the critical frequencies of a substantial proportion of the neural units in the cochlear nucleus of the canary. Thus, the auditory sensitivity and the neural machinery of the peripheral auditory system appear to be matched to the long-term-average power spectrum of the songs. In addition, these facts are compared to those for other birds and mammals, and speculations as to some of the selective pressures that influenced the evolution of hearing are presented. Certain relevant problems of the biophysics of hearing are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)700-709
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number2B
StatePublished - Aug 1971


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