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Sound properties affect measurement of vocal consistency in birdsong: Validation of the spectrogram cross correlation method (SPCC)

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>7/08/2023
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number2
Number of pages10
Pages (from-to)699-708
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


In songbirds, singing with precision (vocal consistency) has been proposed to reflect whole-organism performance. Vocal consistency is measured using spectrogram cross correlation (SPCC) to assess the acoustic similarity between subsequent renditions of the same note. To quantify how SPCC is sensitive to the acoustic discrepancies found in birdsong, we created a set of 40 000 synthetic sounds that were designed based on the songs of 345 species. This set included 10 000 reference sounds and 30 000 inexact variants with quantified differences in frequency, bandwidth, or duration with respect to the reference sounds. We found that SPCC is sensitive to acoustic discrepancies within the natural range of vocal consistency, supporting the use of this method as a tool to assess vocal consistency in songbirds. Importantly, the sensitivity of SPCC was significantly affected by the bandwidth of sounds. The predictions derived from the analysis of synthetic sounds were then validated using 954 song recordings from 345 species (20 families). Based on psychoacoustic studies from birds and humans, we propose that the sensitivity of SPCC to acoustic discrepancies mirrors a perceptual bias in sound discrimination. Nevertheless, we suggest the tool be used with care, since sound bandwidth varies considerably between singing styles and therefore, SPCC scores may not be comparable.