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Variation in singing style use in the reed bunting Emberiza schoeniclus: influencing factors and possible functions


Brunner, P; Pasinelli, G (2010). Variation in singing style use in the reed bunting Emberiza schoeniclus: influencing factors and possible functions. Journal of Avian Biology, 41(4):388-379.

Abstract

The two main functions of bird song are territory defence and mate attraction. Considerable progress has been made in understanding how species adjust the use of songs to serve these and other (presumed) functions of bird song, but the striking variety of singing behavior observable in wild birds remains enigmatic. Some species make do with simple songs and small repertoires, while others show large, complex repertoires and still others have evolved several distinct singing styles. In most species with distinct singing styles, however, the functions of singing styles are poorly understood. Two distinct singing styles (type I and II, respectively) have long been known in the reed bunting Emberiza schoeniclus, while a new third one has recently been reported to exist. We first quantitatively investigated the evidence for the existence of three singing styles. Then, we tested predictions of the mate attraction hypothesis, the mate guarding hypothesis and the territory defence hypothesis by examining the relations between singing style use with social and temporal factors. Cluster and discriminant analyses supported the existence of three (instead of two) singing styles, which could be differentiated based on four variables referring to song structure and complexity. Use of singing styles was related to male mating status (consistent with the mate attraction hypothesis), but not to female breeding stage (no support for the mate guarding hypothesis). Finally, use of singing styles differed in relation to time of day, with the dawn chorus of paired reed buntings consisting almost exclusively of songs of the recently discovered type III singing style and daytime singing primarily consisting of songs of long-known type I (in unpaired males) or II singing styles (in paired males). Our findings suggest that one singing style (type I) primarily serves to attract a social mate, although an additional territorial function of this singing style cannot be dismissed. The function(s) of the other two singing styles, both only sung by paired males, are not related to attraction of a social mate or to the own female's fertility, but appear to be important in the context of territory defence and extra-pair matings.

The two main functions of bird song are territory defence and mate attraction. Considerable progress has been made in understanding how species adjust the use of songs to serve these and other (presumed) functions of bird song, but the striking variety of singing behavior observable in wild birds remains enigmatic. Some species make do with simple songs and small repertoires, while others show large, complex repertoires and still others have evolved several distinct singing styles. In most species with distinct singing styles, however, the functions of singing styles are poorly understood. Two distinct singing styles (type I and II, respectively) have long been known in the reed bunting Emberiza schoeniclus, while a new third one has recently been reported to exist. We first quantitatively investigated the evidence for the existence of three singing styles. Then, we tested predictions of the mate attraction hypothesis, the mate guarding hypothesis and the territory defence hypothesis by examining the relations between singing style use with social and temporal factors. Cluster and discriminant analyses supported the existence of three (instead of two) singing styles, which could be differentiated based on four variables referring to song structure and complexity. Use of singing styles was related to male mating status (consistent with the mate attraction hypothesis), but not to female breeding stage (no support for the mate guarding hypothesis). Finally, use of singing styles differed in relation to time of day, with the dawn chorus of paired reed buntings consisting almost exclusively of songs of the recently discovered type III singing style and daytime singing primarily consisting of songs of long-known type I (in unpaired males) or II singing styles (in paired males). Our findings suggest that one singing style (type I) primarily serves to attract a social mate, although an additional territorial function of this singing style cannot be dismissed. The function(s) of the other two singing styles, both only sung by paired males, are not related to attraction of a social mate or to the own female's fertility, but appear to be important in the context of territory defence and extra-pair matings.

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7 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Language:English
Date:July 2010
Deposited On:19 Jul 2010 13:16
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 14:12
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell
ISSN:0908-8857
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1600-048X.2009.04967.x
Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-35128

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