Article

Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 14, Issue 4, pp 281-286

First online:

Song repertoire size and female preferences in song sparrows

  • William A. SearcyAffiliated withThe Rockefeller University Field Research Center

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Summary

Captive female song sparrows (Melospiza melodia), after treatment with estradiol, perform copulation solicitation displays when presented with songs of conspecific males. Females respond more strongly to eight song types than to four, and to sixteen song types than to eight. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that female song sparrows prefer large repertoires, rather than preferring normal or natural repertoire sizes (5 to 13 song types).

The results with captive females might be taken to imply that females in the field prefer as mates those males with the largest repertoire sizes. This hypothesis was tested by observing pairing in a field population. In each of 2 years, there was no significant correlation between male repertoire size and date of initial pair formation. Furthermore, there was no correlation between repertoire size and the speed with which a second mate was acquired after removal of the first. It is concluded that repertoire size does not have an important influence on female choice of mates in song sparrows.