The reason that as a scientist I find it exciting is that this is only the fourth group of birds in which we have documented any type of vocal learning. I think they provide a window on the conditions under which vocal learning might have evolved in other groups.
SA: What mysteries of birdsong would you most want to solve in your lifetime?
DK: Why do birds acquire sounds the way they do? Why do some birds learn and some don¿t? Neighboring robins seem to have dissimilar songs, and that suggests that they probably make them up. There must be some grand evolutionary blueprint by which all of these birds are operating, and if we just knew enough about their life histories, my gut feeling is that all this variety we see among birds would start to make sense.
Jennifer Uscher, a freelance science writer in New York, specializes in writing about birds.