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Sedentary life style of Neotropical sedge wrens promotes song imitation



Sedentary life style of Neotropical sedge wrens promotes song imitation



Animal Behaviour 57(4): 855-863



To what extent has the style of song development among songbirds coevolved with other life history strategies? Among Cistothorus wrens in North America, it seems that sedentary or site-faithful habits of marsh wrens, C. palustris, favour song imitation, but seminomadic habits of sedge wrens, C. platensis, favour song improvisation, whereby each male generates a large but unique song repertoire. In this study, we tested whether more sedentary populations of sedge wrens in the Neotropics would imitate songs. At our primary study site near Cartago, Costa Rica, breeding birds were colour-banded during 1995 and 1996, and follow-up surveys revealed that the birds remained at this site the year round. Extensive tape recording and analysis of songs showed that males had large song repertoires (200-300+ songs), and that many songs were shared among neighbouring males. In addition, males only 27 km distant, at La Pastora, used different songs. Furthermore, matched countersinging, in which two males answer each other with identical song types, was recorded near Brasilia, in Brazil. The sharing of songs among permanent neighbours, microgeographical variation in song, and matched countersinging can be achieved only through song imitation, thus revealing a striking difference in the style of song development among different populations of the sedge wren. In the Neotropics, having predictable neighbours throughout life appears to have favoured song imitation, so that individuals can interact using a common, learned code typical of the local population; among more mobile populations in North America, however, individuals improvise large repertoires of species-typical songs, thereby enabling singing males to communicate with any individual, no matter what the population of origin. Strategies of song development must correlate with life history features, and further surveys are needed to make sense of the great diversity of singing behaviours among songbirds. Copyright 1999 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour.

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Accession: 009971359

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PMID: 10202093

DOI: 10.1006/anbe.1998.1036


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