Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 28, Issue 5, pp 309–314 | Cite as

Influence of wing and tail morphology on the duration of song flight in skylarks

  • Anders Pape Møller


Song flight, which is an aerial song display especially used by many open country bird species, is expected to be energetically very costly. Any morphological adaptation reducing the magnitude of this cost thus would be favored by selection. Male skylarks Alauda arvensis perform frequent song flights during a period of nearly half the year. Skylarks are sexually size dimorphic in most body traits, but particularly in wing area and wing span, which is absolutely and relatively larger in males than in females. Wing loadings, aspect ratios, and flight costs therefore are smaller in males than in females. I investigated the effect of wing area and aspect ratio on the duration of the song flights of individual birds by timing their duration before and after an experimental manipulation of wing area. Male skylarks were caught, ringed, and released (control I), had the tips of their wing feathers cut (control II), or had the tips of their wing feathers reduced by approximately 10 mm. There were no statistically significant differences in morphology or duration of songs between treatment groups before experimental treatments. However, males having the tips of their wing feathers reduced by ca. 10 mm performed only greatly abbreviated song flights. Original wing loading and aspect ratio also affected the duration of song flights, since male skylarks with low wing loadings and high aspect ratios performed longer song flights than did males with high wing loadings and low aspect ratios. This was the case both before and after experimental treatment. Wing area is suggested to reflect the ability of individual skylarks to invest in morphological structures allowing an increased song output.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anders Pape Møller
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyUppsala UniversityUppsalaSweden

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