Testing the function of song-matching in birds: Responses of eastern male song sparrows Melospiza melodia to partial song-matching


Journal Article

Song-matching has been hypothesized to be a signal of aggressive intentions whereby matching an opponent signals that the singer is likely to attack. Theory predicts that an aggressive signal should impose a cost that enforces the signal's reliability. A receiver-dependent cost imposed by the matched bird's aggressive retaliation has been proposed for song-matching. We tested for such a cost for partial song-matching in an eastern population of song sparrows where males lack the shared song types necessary for song type matching, but can perform partial song-matching using shared song segments. We tested aggressive response, as measured by average distance to a playback speaker, to partial-matching songs and non-matching songs. We predicted a stronger aggressive response to partial-matching songs, as has been shown for whole song-matching in western song sparrow populations. The birds in our study responded no differently to partial-matching and non-matching songs. Neither the distance to the playback speaker nor singing responses differed between playback treatments. Our results do not support a receiver-dependent cost to partial song-matching, as would be expected if partial-matching is a direct threat. Instead, we suggest that partial song-matching functions as a signal of attention. © 2008 Brill Academic Publishers.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Anderson, RC; Searcy, WA; Nowicki, S

Published Date

  • March 1, 2008

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 145 / 3

Start / End Page

  • 347 - 363

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1568-539X

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0005-7959

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1163/156853908783402876

Citation Source

  • Scopus