Are there age-related differences in the song repertoire size of Eurasian blackbirds?
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Most oscine bird species possess a repertoire of different song patterns, and repertoire size is thought to signal aspects of male quality. As age is assumed to be related to male quality in terms of experience and/or viability, repertoire size may be expected to reflect male age. Here, we investigated the relationship between repertoire size and age (yearlings or older) in Eurasian blackbirds, Turdus merula, a species with a large repertoire delivered in a highly variable manner. We found that older males tended to have larger repertoires than yearlings though the two age groups overlapped considerably. Thus, compared to other species with large repertoires, age-related differences in repertoire size seem rather small in male Eurasian blackbirds. We also compared repertoires of three individuals in two successive years (as yearlings and in the year following) and found a large element turnover. Our investigation revealed that this turnover was almost complete in the quiet terminating twitter part of the song. Such turnover may allow a young bird to adjust his repertoire to his neighbours’ repertoires, which could be useful for song matching interactions.
KeywordsTurdus merula Blackbird Song Repertoire Age Male quality
We thank T. Sacher, T. Coppack and F. Bairlein for collaboration and O. Hüppop with the team of the Vogelwarte Helgoland and C. Horn for assistance during the field work. We also thank S. Newman and I. Teschke for language improvement and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on the manuscript. The study was funded by a combined PhD fellowship from NaFöG (Promotionsstipendium nach dem Nachwuchsförderungsgesetz des Landes Berlin, Germany), SNAK (Graduate School on Sense organs, Nerve systems, Behaviour and Communication, funded by the Danish Research Agency) and the University of Copenhagen to NH and a framework grant from the Danish Research Council for Nature and Universe (no. 272-07-0477) to TD. This study meets the guidelines of the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour and complies with laws of Germany and Denmark.
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