Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 61, Issue 4, pp 579–587 | Cite as

Energetic state and the performance of dawn chorus in silvereyes (Zosterops lateralis)

Original Article


Stochastic dynamic programming (SDP) models predict that males singing to attract a mate should concentrate singing in what has been termed the dawn chorus. This is because male birds should have a variable surplus of fat in the morning that can be used to fuel singing, with the amount of fat available dependent upon such factors as his quality, foraging success and risk of predation. In this manner, the dawn chorus can act as an indicator of male quality in the context of female mate choice. We test a key prediction of SDP models of singing behaviour that males with greater fat levels should sing more. We conducted an experiment where we recorded the dawn chorus of male silvereyes (Zosterops lateralis) on three consecutive days. Each male received supplementary food on the second day, which enabled us to sample his dawn chorus before, during and after food supplementation. We also collected data on the effect of supplementary food on the body mass of silvereyes. As predicted by SDP models, we found that silvereyes sang for a greater proportion of the time after receiving supplementary food. Supplementary food also had a significant effect on the complexity of a male song, indicating that males not only increased the quantity of their song but also the quality of their song when they received extra food. As the provision of supplementary food significantly increased the mass of fed birds, our results support a causal link between male energy reserves and his ability to perform the dawn chorus.


Dawn chorus Mate quality Stochastic dynamic programming Songbirds 



We thank Jack van Berkel at the Edward Percival Field Station in Kaikoura for providing facilities during our field work in the area. We were permitted to work at Kowhai Bush by the Canterbury Regional Council. This study was approved by the Animal Ethics Committee of the University of Canterbury and the New Zealand Department of Conservation. Funding was provided by the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Biological SciencesUniversity of CanterburyChristchurchNew Zealand
  2. 2.Evolution and Behaviour Research GroupUniversity of Newcastle upon TyneNewcastle upon TyneUK

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