Journal of Ornithology

, Volume 156, Issue 1, pp 55–63 | Cite as

The function of seasonal song in a tropical resident species, the Red-throated Ant-tanager (Habia fuscicauda)

  • Ioana Chiver
  • Bridget J. M. Stutchbury
  • Eugene S. Morton
Original Article


Recent studies of tropical birds with year-round territoriality indicate that song rate is relatively low year-round in association with lower seasonality and relatively stable social environment over the year. We examined seasonal variation in the song rate of Red-throated Ant-tanagers (Habia fuscicauda), a socially monogamous species in which males predominantly sing during the breeding season, to determine to what extent increased song rate is driven by (1) increased territory defense, (2) pair coordination of nest initiation, and (3) competition for extra-pair mating opportunities. Song was infrequent during the non-breeding season, increased dramatically prior to nesting (17 % time spent singing), and increased even more so during nesting (32 % time spent singing). Male song output was inversely related to frequency of interactions between pairs at territorial borders; however, interactions may also serve in a mating context. Extra-pair matings were common, and 17 of 41 nestlings in ten of 19 broods were extra-pair young, suggesting that high male song output may be sexually selected via extra-pair mate choice. Although males spent much less time singing prior to nesting, our results also indicate that male initiation of singing was associated with female egg-laying date, indicating also a role in within-pair coordination of reproduction. Our results suggest that high song output during the breeding season may be more common in omnivorous species that experience increased seasonality and that it may be indicative of an extra-pair mating system. More studies of species with diverse life histories are needed to examine the ecological conditions that explain interspecific variation in song output.


Extra-pair mating Neotropics Pair coordination Seasonality Song output Year-round territoriality 


Die Funktion saisonalen Gesangs bei der tropischen Rotkehl-Ameisentangare (Habia fuscicauda)

Aktuelle Untersuchungen von tropischen Vögeln mit ganzjähriger Territorialität deuten darauf hin, daß die Gesangsrate das ganze Jahr über relativ niedrig ist, was mit einer geringeren Saisonalität und einer relativ stabilen sozialen Umwelt über das Jahr hinweg zusammenhängt. Wir untersuchten saisonale Unterschiede in der Gesangsrate der Rotkehl-Ameisentangare (Habia fuscicauda), einer sozial monogamen Art, bei der die Männchen vor allem während der Brutsaison singen, um festzustellen, in welchem Maße eine Zunahme der Gesangsrate angeregt ist durch (1) Revierverteidigung, (2) Paarkoordination bezüglich des Nistbeginns und (3) Konkurrenz um Gelegenheiten für „extra-pair mating“. Der Gesang war selten außerhalb der Brutzeit, nahm dramatisch zu vor der Nistzeit (Gesang 17 % der gesamten Zeit), und umso mehr während der Nistzeit (Gesang 32 % der Gesamtzeit). Der Umfang des Gesangs der Männchen hing umgekehrt zusammen mit der Häufigkeit von Interaktionen von Paaren an den Territoriumsgrenzen; allerdings können Interaktionen auch eine Rolle spielen im Zusammenhang mit der Paarung. „Extra-pair mating“war häufig und 17 von 41 Nestlingen in 10 von 19 Bruten waren paarfremde Junge, was darauf hindeutet, dass hohe Gesangsaktivität möglicherweise über die Wahl paarfremder Partner selektiert wird. Obwohl die Männchen vor dem Nistbeginn eine viel geringere Zeit mit Singen zubrachten, deuten unsere Ergebnisse auch darauf hin, dass der Beginn des Gesangs assoziiert war mit dem Datum der Eiablage, was wiederum darauf hindeutet, dass der Gesang eine Rolle spielt bei der Koordination des Brutpaares beim Brutgeschäft. Unsere Ergebnisse legen nahe, dass hohe Gesangsaktivität während der Brutsaison häufiger vorkommt bei omnivoren Arten, die eine erhöhte Saisonalität erfahren und dass sie ein Zeichen sein könnten für ein „extra-pair mating“System. Mehr Studien an Arten mit unterschiedlicher Lebensgeschichte sind notwendig, um die ökologischen Bedingungen zu untersuchen, die Unterschiede in der Gesangsaktivität zwischen verschiedenen Arten erklären.


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Copyright information

© Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V. 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ioana Chiver
    • 1
  • Bridget J. M. Stutchbury
    • 1
  • Eugene S. Morton
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of BiologyYork UniversityTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Hemlock Hill Biological StationCambridge SpringsUSA

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