Acoustic signals during intrasexual interactions may help receivers to establish the cost and benefits of engaging in a confrontation versus avoiding the cost of escalation. Although birdsong repertoires have been previously suggested as providing information during agonistic encounters, the cost (time/neural resources) of assessing large repertoires may decrease the efficiency of the signal for mutual assessment. Acoustic-structural features may, therefore, be used to enable a fast and accurate assessment during this kind of encounters. Recently, it has been suggested that the consistency of songs may play a key role during intrasexual interactions in bird species. Using a playback experiment in a colour-ringed great tit population, we tested the hypothesis that songs differing in consistency may elicit a differential response, indicating that the signal is salient for the receivers. Great tit males clearly responded more aggressively towards highly consistent songs. Our findings, together with previous evidence of increased song consistency with age in the great tit, suggest that song consistency provides information on experience or dominance in this species, and this phenomenon may be more widespread than currently acknowledged.
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