Babbling Baby Birds

Boo Boo, stop parroting everything I say!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science… saying…

Babies seem to know what they’re talking about… but how do we go from “goo-goo-ga-ga” to sophisticated languages? 

Rory Eggleston and Karl Berg from the University of Texas looked at birds for clues. Birds have very complex vocal repertoires. At the Masaguaral Biological Station in Venezuela, researchers made a shocking discovery. Baby parrots repeat bits of squawks they’ve heard, which hadn’t been seen in parrots before. 

Then they looked at studies linking stress hormones and baby babbling.

To try to increase this behavior, they dosed bird food with stress hormones. The baby parrots made MORE noises than before and began sounding more like adults. The researchers believe stress hormones are key in transitioning from “baby speech” to coherent language.

They also think a similar process may happen in humans. Stress gets a bad rap, but early on, it might be our biggest helper!

Where do you think Baby Einstein got all those gray hairs?!

Reference: Eggleston, R., Viloria, N., Delgado, S., Mata, A., Guerrero, H. Y., Kline, R. J., et al. (2022). Vocal babbling in a wild parrot shows life history and endocrine affinities with human infants. Proc. R. Soc. B Biol. Sci. 289, 20220592. doi:10.1098/rspb.2022.0592.