Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 67, Issue 1, pp 145–152 | Cite as

Dealing with urban noise: vermilion flycatchers sing longer songs in noisier territories

  • Alejandro Ariel Ríos-Chelén
  • Esmeralda Quirós-Guerrero
  • Diego Gil
  • Constantino Macías Garcia
Original Paper


In noisy conditions, several avian species modulate their songs in amplitude and in the temporal or frequency domains, presumably to improve communication. Most studies on how passerine birds perform such adjustments have been carried out in oscines, a group well known for the importance of learning in the development of their songs. On the other hand, suboscines, in which learning appears to have little influence on the development of their songs, have been largely neglected. We evaluated song adjustment to noise in the vermilion flycatcher (Pyrocephalus rubinus), a suboscine bird. We conducted song recordings and noise measurements at several territories within Mexico City during the length of the dawn chorus. Males living in noisier places sang long songs, while those males inhabiting quieter places sang both short and long songs. We also found evidence of individual song plasticity, as males sang less versatile songs (i.e., songs with more introductory elements) later in the morning when noise levels were higher. This individual shift in song seems to be more associated to time of the day rather than to the observed rise in noise. However, we cannot discard an effect of noise, which should be evaluated with an experiment. We discuss our results in the context of other studies with oscine passerines and other taxa and consider implications for signaling in intra- and intersexual contexts.


Vermilion flycatcher Pyrocephalus rubinus Noise Bird song Suboscine Song plasticity 



Fundación Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria provided financial support during this work. The authors thank Aaron Goodman for checking the English grammar of the manuscript.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical standards

This study complies with the current laws of the country where it was performed.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alejandro Ariel Ríos-Chelén
    • 1
    • 3
  • Esmeralda Quirós-Guerrero
    • 1
  • Diego Gil
    • 2
  • Constantino Macías Garcia
    • 1
  1. 1.Departamento de Ecología Evolutiva, Instituto de EcologíaUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoMexico CityMexico
  2. 2.Departamento de Ecología EvolutivaMuseo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales (CSIC)MadridSpain
  3. 3.Department of Evolution and EcologyUniversity of CaliforniaDavisUSA

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