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Female Lincoln’s sparrows modulate their behavior in response to variation in male song quality

Caro, S.P. and Sewall, K.B. and Salvante, K.G. and Sockman, K.W. (2010) Female Lincoln’s sparrows modulate their behavior in response to variation in male song quality. Behavioral Ecology, 21, 562-569. ISSN 1045-2249.

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Sexually reproducing organisms should mate with the highest quality individuals that they can. When female songbirds choose a mate, they are thought to use several aspects of male song that reflect his quality. Under resource-limited environmental conditions, male Lincoln’s sparrows (Melospiza lincolnii) vary among one another in several aspects of song quality, including song length, song complexity, and trill performance. In a 2-pronged approach, we tested whether variation in song quality of male Lincoln’s sparrows influences the behavior of females that are in a reproductive-like state. Over two trials, we exposed females to songs from the high and low ends of the distribution of naturally occurring song quality variation and found a higher level of behavioral activity in females exposed to high-quality songs, especially when they had first been exposed to low-quality songs. We also examined female phonotaxis toward antiphonally played songs with experimentally elevated and reduced trill performance and found that females moved preferentially toward the songs with elevated trill performance. Contrary to most studies investigating the behavioral responses of wild, female songbirds to variation in male song, we obtained our results without administering exogenous estradiol, which can artificially perturb the female’s physiology. Our results demonstrate that the behavior of female Lincoln’s sparrows is modulated by the quality of male songs to which they are exposed and that trill performance plays a significant role in this behavioral modulation. Furthermore, as the order of song quality presentation matters, it appears that recent song experience also influences female behavior. Key words: bird song, mate choice, Melospiza lincolnii, phonotaxis, sexual selection, song playback, trill performance, vocal performance

Item Type:Article
Institutes:Nederlands Instituut voor Ecologie (NIOO)
ID Code:8376
Deposited On:10 Jan 2011 01:00
Last Modified:15 Jan 2014 09:16

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