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Dawn singing reflects past territorial challenges in the winter wren

Summary: Dawn singing reflects past territorial challenges
in the winter wren
Research Station Petite Camargue Alsacienne, University of Basel, Switzerland
(Received 2 March 2005; initial acceptance 13 April 2005;
final acceptance 18 July 2005; published online 2 May 2006; MS. number: 8487)
Territory defence can be seen as a dynamic long-term process that involves some learning. For example,
a resident may adjust its territory proclamation behaviour depending on its prior experience with territo-
rial intruders. We investigated whether short territorial challenges could have long-lasting effects on the
singing behaviour of male birds. We used song playbacks to simulate intrusions into autumn territories
of male winter wrens, Troglodytes troglodytes, shortly after dawn and compared male singing behaviour im-
mediately before and 1 day after the simulated intrusion. As in many other bird species, unchallenged male
wrens tended to sing more songs before than after sunrise. One day after a simulated intrusion, however,
this pattern was much more pronounced. Males significantly increased their song output before sunrise,
but maintained or even reduced song output after sunrise. This result suggests that dawn singing before
sunrise is particularly important for territory defence. On the day after the intrusion, the start of dawn
singing varied less between males, although the average starting time remained the same. Our findings
suggest that a territorial challenge can influence singing behaviour almost 24 h after the intrusion. The
amount and timing of birdsong, as a preventive territorial proclamation, can thus be adjusted to past ter-
ritorial challenges.


Source: Amrhein, Valentin - Zoologisches Institut, Universitšt Basel


Collections: Environmental Sciences and Ecology