Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 61, Issue 4, pp 557–563 | Cite as

Vocal interactions in common nightingales (Luscinia megarhynchos): males take it easy after pairing

  • Hansjoerg P. KuncEmail author
  • Valentin Amrhein
  • Marc Naguib
Original Article


Seasonal patterns of bird song have been studied intensively with a focus on individual males. However, little is known about seasonal patterns of singing during vocal interactions between males. Vocal interactions have been shown to be important in sexual selection as males may signal aspects of motivation or quality. Here, we investigated in nightingales (Luscinia megarhynchos) whether a male’s behaviour in vocal interactions at different stages of the breeding season is influenced by its mating status. We examined how males that differ in their subsequent mating success respond to a non-interactive, nocturnal playback presented during the period of mate attraction and subsequently during the egg-laying period. We found that mated males overlapped fewer songs and had a lower song rate during the egg-laying period compared to their responses during the mate-attraction period, whereas unpaired males did not vary in their responses between the two periods. Our results suggest that mating status is a key factor affecting singing behaviour in vocal interactions and that a time-specific singing pattern like song overlapping is used flexibly during vocal interactions. Because song overlapping is thought to be a signal of aggression in male–male vocal interactions, it seems that males vary the level of aggression in vocal interactions according to their mating status and to the stage in the breeding season.


Sexual selection Eavesdropping Nightingale Bird song Nocturnal song Male–male interactions 



We thank Helene Altrichter, Cas Eikenaar, Christopher Herhausen, Gerd Kraus, Stephanie Michler, Rouven Schmidt, Anne Selbach, Balázs Szelényi and Marieke Weerheim for assistance in the field. Joah Madden, Angelika Poesel, Rouven Schmidt, Jeff Podos and anonymous referees gave valuable comments on the manuscript. Permission for ringing was kindly granted by Henri Jenn and by the Centre de Recherches sur la Biologie des Populations d’Oiseaux, Paris, France. The research was made possible by the Swiss Association Pro Petite Camargue Alsacienne, the Swiss Foundation Emilia Guggenheim-Schnurr and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (Na 335/4-1, 4-2).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hansjoerg P. Kunc
    • 1
    Email author
  • Valentin Amrhein
    • 3
  • Marc Naguib
    • 2
  1. 1.Verhaltensbiologie (Animal Behaviour), Zoologisches InstitutUniversität ZürichZürichSwitzerland
  2. 2.Department of Animal BehaviourUniversity of BielefeldBielefeldGermany
  3. 3.Research Station Petite Camargue AlsacienneUniversity of BaselBaselSwitzerland

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