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Questions and Answers about Wild Birds

Question of the week, July 5.

Q. Do birds dream?

Scientists think that birds do dream, although perhaps not as elaborately as Woody. Researchers at the University of Chicago studied Zebra Finches to examine their dream potential. It seems that sleep and dreams in Zebra Finches, and perhaps other birds, might be related to the way they learn the songs of their parents.

"From our data we suspect the songbird dreams of singing," said Daniel Margoliash, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy at the University of Chicago, and principal investigator in the study.

Young birds learn to sing by listening to adults, and then practice by listening to their own attempts. In the October 27, 2000, issue of Science, the researchers describe how the neurons involved in song generation accurately recreate the complex activities involved in singing, while the birds sleep--although no sound is produced.

Birds have another sleep trick. They can sleep with one eye open. This is called unihemispheric sleep. They have the ability to sleep with half the brain asleep and the other half awake. This gives them the ability to watch for enemies and still catch a few restful winks.





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