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Seasonal variation in dawn song characteristics in the common nightingale

Summary: Seasonal variation in dawn song characteristics
in the common nightingale
*Department of Animal Behaviour, University of Bielefeld
yResearch Station Petite Camargue Alsacienne, University of Basel
(Received 2 February 2004; initial acceptance 5 April 2004;
final acceptance 20 February 2005; published online 17 October 2005; MS. number: 7989R)
Many male temperate zone passerines show a marked peak of singing activity before sunrise. The two main
functions of this so-called dawn chorus are mate attraction and territory defence. We examined how sea-
sonal patterns of different dawn song characteristics were related to mating status and to the breeding cy-
cle of females in the common nightingale, Luscinia megarhynchos. We investigated two measures of song
output: song rate and percentage performance time. We also calculated the proportion of `whistle songs',
a song category that is thought to be important in female choice. We predicted that if the main function of
dawn singing in nightingales is to attract a social mate, then mated males should change their dawn sing-
ing behaviour after pair formation. In contrast, if dawn singing is mainly used in territory defence, we ex-
pected no difference in song traits between mated and unmated males throughout the season. We found
that song rate and the proportion of whistle songs were low at the beginning of the season and did not
predict future mating status. After arrival of females, all measures of dawn song performance remained
largely constant throughout the breeding season, and we did not find significant differences in the seasonal
variation between mated and unmated males. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that song


Source: Amrhein, Valentin - Zoologisches Institut, Universitšt Basel


Collections: Environmental Sciences and Ecology