The buzz segment of Savannah sparrow song is a population marker

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:2018
Authors:Williams, Robins, Newman, Freeman-Gallant, Wheelwright, Mennill
Journal:Journal of Ornithology
Date Published:Mar-12-2018
Keywords:Cultural evolution, dialect, Passerculus sandwichensis, playback, Population, song

Different components of learned birdsongs change at different rates across generations, and the rate of change may correspond to the information carried by each component. To characterize the role of the buzz segment of Savannah sparrow songs, we examined recordings from southeastern Canada and the northeastern US and fully characterized buzz segments in songs recorded from two populations: one on Kent Island, NB, Canada and another in Williamstown, MA, USA. Buzzes varied geographically: Kent Island buzzes had higher mean frequencies and shorter pulse periods than Williamstown buzzes and the differences between the two populations persisted over time. Population-specific buzz characteristics also appeared to be resistant to change. Variants appeared on Kent Island in the late 1980s and were learned by some younger birds; however, these buzz variants disappeared by 2011. We conducted a playback experiment and found that males from both populations had longer responses to local buzzes. Therefore, buzz structure varies geographically; population characteristics of the buzz persist through time despite the introduction of variant forms; and territorial males discriminate between buzzes from different populations. The learned buzz segment of the song may thus serve as a population marker for Savannah sparrows.

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