Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 62, Issue 10, pp 1633–1641 | Cite as

Reproductive strategy and singing activity: blue tit and great tit compared

  • Valentin Amrhein
  • Lars Erik Johannessen
  • Lena Kristiansen
  • Tore Slagsvold
Original Paper


The costs and benefits of bird song are likely to vary among species, and different singing patterns may reflect differences in reproductive strategies. We compared temporal patterns of singing activity in two songbird species, the blue tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) and the great tit (Parus major). The two species live side by side year round, and they have similar breeding ecology and similar rates of extra-pair paternity. However, they differ in two aspects of reproductive strategy that may have an influence on song output: blue tits are facultatively polygynous and have a fairly short breeding season with almost no second broods, whereas great tits are socially monogamous but more commonly raise second broods. We found that great tit males continued singing at high levels during the egg-laying and incubation periods, while monogamously paired blue tit males strongly reduced singing activity after the first days of egg-laying by their female. Since males of both species sang much more intensely shortly before sunrise than after sunrise, at midday or in the evening, this difference was most conspicuous at dawn. No differences in singing activity were found within species when testing for male age. We suggest that in contrast to blue tits, great tit males continued singing after egg-laying to defend the territory and to encourage the female for a possible second brood.


Reproductive strategy Singing activity Dawn chorus Blue tit Great tit 



We thank Jo Franckx, Eirik Grønningsæter and Dávid Kováts for help in the field, and the Haakonsen, Johnsen, Johnsrud and Vestgård families for kind permissions to work on their premises. Bo Terning Hansen, Pius Korner, Fraenzi Korner-Nievergelt and Hans-Rudolf Roth gave invaluable comments during field work and data analysis. The research was funded by grants to V.A. from the Swiss National Science Foundation, the Nikolaus und Bertha Burckhardt-Bürgin-Stiftung and the Basler Stiftung für experimentelle Zoologie.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Valentin Amrhein
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Lars Erik Johannessen
    • 1
  • Lena Kristiansen
    • 1
  • Tore Slagsvold
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis (CEES), Department of BiologyUniversity of OsloOsloNorway
  2. 2.Research Station Petite Camargue AlsacienneSaint-LouisFrance
  3. 3.Zoological InstituteUniversity of BaselBaselSwitzerland

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