‌William Searcy


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264 Cox Science Center
1301 Memorial Drive, Coral Gables, FL 33124
E-mail: wsearcy@miami.edu
Office: (305) 284-2065
Fax: (305) 284-3039

Lab website


  • Professor and Maytag Chair, University of Miami 8/94 - present
  • Associate Professor, University of Pittsburgh 7/88 - 8/94
  • Assistant Professor, University of Pittsburgh 9/82 - 6/88
  • Assistant Professor, Rockefeller University 7/81 - 8/82
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Rockefeller University 1/78 - 6/81
  • University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 9/72 - 8/77, Ph.D. Zoology
  • University of California, Berkeley, California 9/69 - 6/72, B.A. Zoology
  • University of California, Davis, California 9/68 - 6/69


  • President of the Animal Behavior Society, 2016
  • The Examplar Award, Animal Behaviour Society, 2014
  • National Science Foundation Grant 2012-2015. Collaborative research: Cognition and signaling in songbirds.
  • Allen L. Edwards LEcturer, Department of Psychology, University of Washinton 2008
  • Virginia Merill Bloedel Hearing Research Center (University of Washington) Visiting Scholar
  • National Science Foundation Grant 2003-2007. Collaborative research: Developmetal receiver-dependent costs of avian signals.
  • National Science Foundation Grant. 1999-2002. Collaborative research: complexity and information in avian signals.
  • National Science Foundation Grant. 1995-1998. Perception, function and development of complex vocal signals.
  • National Science Foundation International Program Grant. 4/90 - 8/90. Origin of polygyny in a polyterritorial system.
  • National Science Foundation Grant. 12/89 - 11/92. Experimental studies of male-female communication.
  • National Science Foundation Grant. 6/86 - 11/89. Comparative studies of vocal communication.
  • National Science Foundation Grant. 10/83 - 3/86. Functions and consequences of female-female interactions.
  • Public Health National Research Service Traineeship. 8/78 - 6/81.
  • National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Support Grant. June, 1975. Sexual selection and red-winged blackbirds.
  • Phi Beta Kappa
  • Fellow, American Ornithologists' Union
  • Fellow, Animal Behavior Society


  • Behavior and Behavioral Ecology
  • Evolutionary Biology


My principal research interest is in animal communication. I have for many years investigated functional aspects of bird song in collaboration with Steve Nowicki and Susan Peters of Duke University. One focus of this work has been on exploring the implications of proximate mechanisms of song development and song neurobiology for ultimate questions concerning the function of song in male-female communication. This focus has led to investigations of the effects of early nutritional stress on the development of the brain nuclei that control song and on the quality of song learning, using song and swamp sparrows as study organisms. We have also examined, using song sparrows, the preferences of females for well-learned over poorly-learned songs and for local over foreign songs. Another focus of our song work has been on how singing behaviors are used in aggressive signaling between male birds. We have examined a variety of possible aggressive signals in song sparrows, including song type matching, partial matching, song type and variant switching frequencies, and the use of low amplitude "soft song." We are especially interested in determining which behaviors are reliable indicators of attack and in elucidating the mechanisms that maintain reliability.


Evolution (a course for graduate students and senior undergraduates, covering topics such as natural selection, speciation, macroevolution, and extinction); Animal Behavior (a course for undergraduates in mechanisms and evolution of animal behavior); Biology of Birds (a course for undergraduates with field, laboratory, and lecture components, emphasizing ecology, evolution, and natural history of birds); and various graduate seminars (including Animal Communication, Sexual Selection, Sensory Ecology).


  • Searcy, W. A., and K. Yasukawa. In press. Eavesdropping and cue denial in avian acoustic signals. Animal Behaviour.

    DuBois, A. L., S. Nowicki, and W. A. Searcy. 2016. A test for repertoire matching in eastern song sparrows. Journal of Avian Biology.

    Akcay, C., R. C. Anderson, S. Nowicki, M. D. Beecher, and W. A. Searcy. 2015. Quiet threats: soft song as an aggressive signal in birds. Animal Behaviour 105:267-274.

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

    Lachlan, R. F., R. C. Anderson, S. Peters, W. A. Searcy, and S. Nowicki. 2014. Typical versions of learned swamp sparrow song types are more effective signals than lesstypical versions. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 281:20140252.

    Nowicki, S. and W. A. Searcy. 2014. The evolution of vocal learning. Current Opinionin Neurobiology 28:48-53.

    Searcy, W. A., K. B. Sewall, J.Soha, S. Nowicki, and S. Peters. 2014. Song-type  sharing in a population of song sparrows in the eastern United States. Journal of Field Ornithology 85:206-212.

    Anderson R. C, A. L. Dubois, D. K. Piech, W. A. Searcy and S. Nowicki. 2013.Male response to an aggressive visual signal, the wing-wave display, in swampsparrows. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 67:593-600.