, Volume 99, Issue 12, pp 1051–1062 | Cite as

Songs of two starling species: common traits versus adaptations to the social environment

  • C. Houdelier
  • M. Hausberger
  • A. J. F. K. Craig
Original Paper


We analysed, for the first time, songs of the African Red-winged Starling Onychognathus morio and compared their general characteristics with those of the European Starling Sturnus vulgaris. Both species are gregarious during the non-breeding season, but European Starlings tend to nest in colonies, form unstable pair-bonds and are occasionally polygynous, whereas Red-winged Starlings form long-term pair-bonds and occupy exclusive nesting territories. Red-winged Starlings produced the same basic song categories as European Starlings: warbles and whistles. These two categories appeared to be involved in similar social interactions in the two species. However, several aspects of song behaviour differed between the two species: Red-winged Starlings, breeding in isolated nests, preferentially used whistles for long-distance communication and showed a simpler organization of warbling song. Whistles in the Red-winged Starling were mostly shared between birds and, in contrast to the European Starling, were not indicators of individual identity. Also in contrast to the European Starling, female song in Red-winged Starlings appeared very important throughout the breeding period. Our results suggest that some song characteristics in the two species are phylogenetically conserved whereas others are affected by the distinct social systems of the two species.


Bird song Evolution of communication Starling 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. Houdelier
    • 1
  • M. Hausberger
    • 1
  • A. J. F. K. Craig
    • 2
  1. 1.UMR-CNRS 6552 Ethologie animale et humaineUniversité de Rennes 1RennesFrance
  2. 2.Department of Zoology and EntomologyRhodes UniversityGrahamstownSouth Africa

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