Yellowhammer Dialects Project

14 Jan 2013

 What happens with birdsong during invasion of a new territory?

Yellowhammer. Photo: Jordan Kappelly

Yellowhammer. Photo: Jordan Kappelly

Forest & Bird is working with its international partners to answer this question in relation to yellowhammers by helping to promote a citizen science project in New Zealand to evaluate the distribution of their dialects.

Over the next year, volunteers will be asked to contribute field recordings across Britain and NZ, so that researchers can demonstrate how these dialects have spread and evolved. 

Why Yellowhammers?

Yellowhammer is a widespread, small and conspicuous songbird that ideal for studying functions of dialects in anima vocal communication. Its simple songs can be assigned to several dialects, broadly distributed in Europe but overlapping in a mosaic fashion. Most birds at a locality sing only one dialect, which seems locally stable over years.

Why Great Britain and New Zealand?

British yellowhammers have been purposefully introduced to New Zealand in the 19th century and quickly colonised it. This provides good conditions for studying song cultural evolution during biological invasion, and tracking dialects spread. For this, song recordings from various parts of both countries are needed.

Why volunteers?

Yellowhammer is easy to recognise, sings until late in the season, and its song can be recorded by many common gadgets (including smartphones, digital cameras, or voice recorders).  Therefore, the general public can record yellowhammer songs in their vicinity, upload the recordings, and thus contribute to a large scale research project that would not be possible without their participation.

Can it work?

A similar citizen science project in the Czech republic was a huge success . During two years, more than 1,700 recordings were obtained . Recording of yellowhammer songs enriched daily walks, bike trips of family journeys of our volunteers. For some, collecting recordings from different locations and then plotting them on an interactive map became a real passion! 

How is Forest & Bird involved? 

Forest & Bird is Birdlife International's New Zealand partner, so we're working to recruit volunteers across the country to conduct field recordings. It is hoped that we can make this project just as succesfull as the pilot project in the Czech Republic!

If you would like any more information on this project see -