Many animals use long-range signals to compete over mates and resources. Optimal transmission can be achieved by choosing efficient signals, or by choosing adequate signalling perches and song posts. High signalling perches benefit sound transmission and reception, but may be more risky due to exposure to airborne predators. Perch height could thus reflect male quality, with individuals signalling at higher perches appearing as more threatening to rivals. Using playbacks on nightingales (Luscinia megarhynchos), we simulated rivals singing at the same height as residents, or singing three metres higher. Surprisingly, residents increased song output stronger, and, varying with future pairing success, overlapped more songs of the playback when rivals were singing at the same height than when they were singing higher. Other than expected, rivals singing at the same height may thus be experienced as more threatening than rivals singing at higher perches. Our study provides new evidence that territorial animals integrate information on signalling height and thus on vertical cues in their assessment of rivals. © 2012 Sprau et al.
Sprau, P., Roth, T., Naguib, M., & Amrhein, V. (2012). Communication in the third dimension: Song perch height of rivals affects singing response in nightingales. PLoS ONE, 7(3). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0032194