The Nowicki Lab at Duke University




Susan is an expert on the subject of birdsong learning and development. She has studied the timing and specificity of song acquisition, hormonal control of song development, and selective attrition in vocal ontogeny, with most of this work being done with song sparrows and swamp sparrows. Susan also helped to develop and test the developmental stress hypothesis, which suggests a mechanism by which song can be a reliable indicator of male quality because of the developmental costs of song learning. She has studied the correlation between song learning quality and other cognitive traits. Susan has studied the categorical perception of song by swamp sparrows, and recently expanded this interest to color categorical perception in zebra finches and society finches. And, as Susan herself grows older, she has become interested in how a bird's song changes with age.

Recent Papers:

Caves, E. M., P. A. Green, M. N. Zipple, S. Peters, S. Johnsen & S. Nowicki. 2018. Categorical perception of colour signals in a songbird. Nature (10.1038/s41586-018-0377-7)

Sewall, K. B., R. C. Anderson, J. A. Soha, S. Peters & S. Nowicki. 2018. Early life conditions that impact song learning in male zebra finches also impact neural and behavioral responses to song in females. Dev. Neurobiol. (10.1002/dneu.22600)

DuBois, A. L., S. Nowicki, S. Peters, K. D. Rivera-Cáceres & W. A. Searcy. 2018. Song is not a reliable signal of general cognitive ability in a songbird. Anim. Behav. 137: 205-213.

Anderson, R. A, W. A. Searcy, S. Peters, M. Hughes, A. L. DuBois & S. Nowicki. 2017. Song learning and cognitive ability are not consistently related in a songbird. Animal Cognition 20: 309-320.

Peters, S. & S. Nowicki. 2017. Overproduction and attrition: the fates of songs memorized during song learning in songbirds. Anim. Behav. 124: 255-261.

Soha, J. A. & S. Peters. 2015. Vocal learning in songbirds and humans: A retrospective in honor of Peter Marler. Ethology 121: 933-945.

Lachlan, R. F., R. C. Anderson, S. Peters, W. A. Searcy & S. Nowicki. 2014. Typical versions of learned swamp sparrow song types are more effective signals than are less typical versions. Proc. Roy. Soc. B 281: 20140252.

Peters, S., W. A. Searcy & S. Nowicki. 2014. Developmental stress, song-learning, and cognition. Integrative and Comparative Biology 54: 555-567.

Anderson, R. C., S. Peters & S. Nowicki. 2014. Effects of early auditory experience on the development of local song preference in female swamp sparrows. Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 68: 437-447.

Searcy, W. A., K. B. Sewall, J. Soha, S. Nowicki & S. Peters. 2014. Song-type sharing in a population of Song Sparrows in the eastern United States. J. Field Ornith. 85: 206-212.

Sewall, K. B., J. A. Soha, S. Peters & S. Nowicki. 2013. Potential trade-off between vocal ornamentation and spatial ability in a songbird. Biology Letters 9: 20130344.

Klofstad, C.A., R.C. Anderson & S. Peters. 2012. Sounds like a winner: Voice pitch influences perception of leadership capacity in both men and women. Proc. Roy. Soc. Lond. B. 279: 2698 - 2704.

Peters, S., E. P. Derryberry & S. Nowicki. 2012. Songbirds learn songs least degraded by environmental transmission. Biol. Lett. 8: 736 - 739.

Prather, J.F., S. Peters, R. Mooney & S. Nowicki. 2012. Sensory constraints on birdsong syntax: neural responses to swamp sparrow songs with accelerated trill rates. Anim. Behav. 83: 1411 - 1420.

Boogert, N., R. C. Anderson, S. Peters, W. A. Searcy & S. Nowicki. 2011. Song repertoire size in male song sparrows correlates with detour-reaching, but not with other cognitive measures. Anim. Behav. 81: 1209 - 1216.

Prather, J.F., S. Peters, S. Nowicki & R. Mooney. 2010. Persistent representation of juvenile experience in the adult songbird brain. J. Neurosci. 30: 10586 - 10598.

Searcy, W. A., S. Peters, S. Kipper & S. Nowicki. 2010. Female sparrows use song to assess male developmental history. Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 64: 1343 - 1349.

Prather, J.F., S. Nowicki, R.C. Anderson, S. Peters & R. Mooney. 2009. Neural correlates of categorical perception in learned vocal communication. Nature Neuroscience, in press

Anderson , R.C., W.A. Searcy, S. Peters & S. Nowicki. 2008. Soft Song in Song Sparrows: Acoustic Structure and Implications for Signal Function. Ethology, 662 - 676.

Prather, J.F., S. Peters, S. Nowicki & R. Mooney. 2008. Precise auditory-vocal mirroring in neurons for learned vocal communication. Nature, 451: 305 - 310.