Sing softly to evoke a response only from a recent intruder

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:2018
Authors:Jakubowska, Osiejuk
Journal:Behavioural Processes
Pagination:244 - 249
Date Published:Jan-12-2018
Parole chiave:Aggressive signals, Emberiza hortulana, playback experiment, Territory defence

Low-amplitude soft songs have been described in many birds, but in most species, research has addressed only broadcast songs. Soft songs may have a similar or distinctive structure in comparison to broadcast songs produced in order to defend a territory and attract females. In some species, such soft songs were found to be produced in an aggressive context and were the best predictors of conflict escalation and later physical attack. However, such observations are not consistent across all species studied. Several hypotheses have been put forward to explain the function(s) of soft songs and why they are so quiet. Studies on the ortolan bunting (Emberiza hortulana) show that males produce soft songs similar in structure to broadcast songs during close interactions with conspecific intruders. However, experiments with the playback of loud and soft songs as well as taxidermic mount presentation revealed that soft song in this species does not fulfil aggressive signal criteria. Here we performed an experiment with two loudspeakers simulating movements of the intruder in order to test whether the soft songs are used to evoking a response from a nearby but not localised rival. We found that males responded with similar strength to songs played back from single and double speaker systems. Simultaneously, males produced more soft songs during and just after the phase of the experiment in which we simulated short flights of the intruder. Our results indicate that soft songs might be used during close interactions with rivals without being an aggressive signal and are used as short-range signals to check if the rival is still around. Our results also provide an alternative explanation of soft song behaviour in comparison to the hypotheses of eavesdropping avoidance and readiness to fight.

Short Title:Behavioural Processes
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Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith