Journal of Ethology

, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 17–25 | Cite as

The song structure and seasonal patterns of vocal behavior of male and female bellbirds (Anthornis melanura)

  • Dianne H. Brunton
  • Xiaoling Li


The bellbird (Anthornis melanura) is a honeyeater endemic to New Zealand, which uses song to defend breeding territories and/or food resources year round. Both sexes sing and the song structure and singing behavior have not yet been quantified. The number of song types, spectral structure, repertoire size, and singing behavior of male and female bellbirds was investigated for a large island population. Song types differed between the sexes with males singing a number of structurally distinct song types and females producing song types that overlapped in structure. Singing behavior also differed between the sexes; males often sung long series of songs while females sung each song at relatively long and variable intervals. Singing by both sexes occurred year round but the frequency of male and female singing bouts showed contrasting seasonal patterns. The frequency of female singing bouts increased as the breeding season progressed, whereas male singing bouts decreased. In contrast to almost all studied passerines, female bellbirds exhibited significant singing behavior and sung songs of complex structure and variety that parallel male song. These results provide a quantitative foundation for further research of song in bellbirds and in particular the function of female vocal behavior.


Song type Repertoire Anthornis melanura Female song Territorial defence 



We wish to thank many people for making this project possible. Funding and logistical support were provided by the Supporters of Tiri and the University of Auckland Research Committee. For help in the field we wish to thank Sandra Anderson, Rosalie Stamp and Laura Molles. We are especially grateful to Barbara Walter, a Department of Conservation ranger on Tiri. Isabel Castro and Stuart Parsons provided comments on the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Japan Ethological Society and Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Biological SciencesUniversity of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand
  2. 2.Ecology Lab, Institute of Natural ResourcesAlbany Campus, Massey UniversityAucklandNew Zealand

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