Song overproduction and selective attrition lead to song sharing in the field sparrow (Spizella pusilla)

Summary

Male field sparrows settling on particular territories for the first time often sing two or more song types. Vocal experience with neighboring males then leads in most cases to the deletion from the male's repertoires of all but one song type. In 2 years, settling males retained the song type that most closely resembled that of a neighbor. Focal observations in 1 year revealed that the most actively singing neighbor was the one the new birds resembled. Songs were not selected on the basis of their absolute acoustic characteristics, but rather by their resemblance to neighbors' songs. After the attrition process is complete, males retain their song for the rest of their lives. Evidence supports the hypothesis that the actual acquisition of a song need not take place at the time and place as males occupy territories. Rather, males may acquire an abundance of song models earlier in life and then select songs from this repertoire that most closely resemble those of their neighbors. The development of mature repertoires and of local dialects is the outcome of one process in this species.

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Nelson, D.A. Song overproduction and selective attrition lead to song sharing in the field sparrow (Spizella pusilla). Behav Ecol Sociobiol 30, 415–424 (1992). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00176177

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Keywords

  • Acoustic Characteristic
  • Song Type
  • Focal Observation
  • Local Dialect
  • Actual Acquisition