Reproductive strategy and singing activity: Blue tit and great tit compared

  • Amrhein V
  • Johannessen L
  • Kristiansen L
 et al. 
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Abstract

Abstract  The costs and benefits of bird song are likely to vary among species, and different singing patterns may reflect differences in reproductive strategies. We compared temporal patterns of singing activity in two songbird species, the blue tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) and the great tit (Parus major). The two species live side by side year round, and they have similar breeding ecology and similar rates of extra-pair paternity. However, they differ in two aspects of reproductive strategy that may have an influence on song output: blue tits are facultatively polygynous and have a fairly short breeding season with almost no second broods, whereas great tits are socially monogamous but more commonly raise second broods. We found that great tit males continued singing at high levels during the egg-laying and incubation periods, while monogamously paired blue tit males strongly reduced singing activity after the first days of egg-laying by their female. Since males of both species sang much more intensely shortly before sunrise than after sunrise, at midday or in the evening, this difference was most conspicuous at dawn. No differences in singing activity were found within species when testing for male age. We suggest that in contrast to blue tits, great tit males continued singing after egg-laying to defend the territory and to encourage the female for a possible second brood.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Blue tit
  • Dawn chorus
  • Great tit
  • Reproductive strategy
  • Singing activity

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