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Karl Berg

Advisor: Jack Bradbury

State Date: Summer 2006

My research interests lie in the diversity and behavioral ecology of tropical birds. My doctoral dissertation combines field observation with experimentation to understand the function and development of vocal behavior in wild parrots. Parrots have long been a popular model for understanding the neurophysiology and neuroethology of learning of complex motor patterns. Captive parrots in general are famous for their ability to emulate human speech, yet we are only beginning to appreciate how this extraordinary trait functions in wild parrot societies. How does vocal emulation help wild birds find suitable food, mates or nest sites? How does vocal mimicry help parents coordinate reproductive activities and what are the consequences of this in relation to the resulting vocal behavior of their offspring? Parrots are disproportionately threatened among birds owing to habitat destruction, capture for the pet trade and life history traits that make parrots especially susceptible to stochastic population crashes. As such, our research into vocal development could have implications for the management and reintroduction programs that target threatened species.

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