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Similar, yet different: male Reed Buntings (Emberiza schoeniclus) show high individual differences in song composition, rates of syllable sharing and use

Abstract

Male birds sing to find a mate or to defend a territory. Their songs are known to be highly species-specific, but males may additionally show high levels of song individuality. Differences in song features have been shown to code for male quality and/or motivational states. Quantifying differences and similarities in the singing of males may broaden the general understanding of avian song and pairing systems. Here, we investigated the song of an Eastern German population of Reed Buntings (Emberiza schoeniclus), a species with a medium-sized song repertoire and extraordinary high extra-pair young rates (up to 55 %). Using a computed template-recognition algorithm, we analysed songs of 11 males focussing on individual variation in song composition and use. To determine the degree of song sharing among males, we compared two different measurements of song similarity (DICE coefficient and coefficient of compositional similarity; CCS). We found that males sing highly individual with respect to most analysed parameters. On average, males shared 62 % of their syllable type repertoire with at least one other male. However, taking song use into account, the overall degree of song sharing was low to moderate for both similarity measures, and average DICE values were higher than the CCS values. Additionally, we found that the closer the male territories were to each other, the higher the proportion of song sharing tended to be. We discuss the implications of our findings for the function of song in the Reed Bunting.

Zusammenfassung

Das Gleiche, nicht dasselbe: Männliche Rohrammern ( Emberiza schoeniclus ) zeigen große individuelle Unterschiede in der Gesangskomposition, sowie im Teilen und der Nutzung von Silben

Männliche Vögel singen, um eine Partnerin zu finden und/oder ihr Territorium zu verteidigen. Obwohl Vogelgesang stark artspezifisch ist, können Männchen innerhalb einer Art auch sehr individuelle Gesangsmerkmale aufweisen. Unterschiede in den Gesangseigenschaften kodieren dabei für die Qualität eines Männchens oder seinen Motivationszustand. Die Quantifizierung innerartlicher Gesangsvariabilität kann dazu beitragen, das generelle Verständnis für bestimmte Gesangsfunktionen und Paarungssysteme verschiedener Arten zu erweitern. In der vorliegenden Studie untersuchten wir den Gesang einer Population von Rohrammern (Emberiza schoeniclus). Männchen dieser Art besitzen ein Gesangsrepertoire mittlerer Größe. Zudem konnten Untersuchungen eine außergewöhnlich hohe Rate von außerehelich gezeugten Nachkommen (bis zu 55 %) nachweisen. Wir untersuchten die Gesänge von 11 Rohrammermännchen unter Anwendung eines Mustererkennungs-Algorithmus des Soundanalyseprogramms Avisoft. Dabei erfassten wir individuelle Unterschiede in der Repertoire-Komposition sowie den Einsatz einzelner Repertoire-Elemente im Gesang. Um den Anteil der von Männchen geteilten Gesangselemente zu bestimmen, haben wir zwei verschiedene Maße für Gesangsähnlichkeit verglichen (DICE Koeffizient und Koeffizient kompositioneller Ähnlichkeit; CCS). Wir zeigen, dass die Männchen in Bezug auf die meisten gemessenen Gesangsparameter sehr individuell vokalisierten. Im Durchschnitt teilten sie 62 % ihres Silbenrepertoires mit mindestens einem anderen Männchen. Jedoch war, wenn die Verwendung der im Repertoire enthaltenen Silben berücksichtigt wurde, der Gesamtanteil der gemeinsamen Elemente für beide Ähnlichkeitsmaße eher moderat. Die durchschnittlichen DICE-Werte waren dabei geringer als die CCS-Werte. Des Weiteren teilten sich näher beieinander singende Männchen tendenziell größere Teile ihres Repertoires als weiter entfernt voneinander singende Männchen. Wir diskutieren unsere Ergebnisse im Hinblick auf mögliche Gesangsfunktionen bei der Rohrammer.

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Acknowledgments

We are most grateful to Prof. Wolfgang Dohle for kindly introducing us to the Reed Bunting population at the ‘National Park Unteres Odertal’ and acknowledge Michael Weiss for familiarising us with the computer-based template-recognition algorithm in Avisoft. Furthermore, we would like to thank Sarah Kiefer, Kim G. Mortega, Michael Weiss and an anonymous reviewer for valuable discussions throughout the study.

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Correspondence to S. L. Voigt-Heucke.

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Communicated by F. Bairlein.

C. Bartsch and S. L. Voigt-Heucke contributed equally.

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Bessert-Nettelbeck, M., Kipper, S., Bartsch, C. et al. Similar, yet different: male Reed Buntings (Emberiza schoeniclus) show high individual differences in song composition, rates of syllable sharing and use. J Ornithol 155, 689–700 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10336-014-1052-x

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10336-014-1052-x

Keywords

  • Individual song variation
  • Song sharing
  • Song function
  • DICE coefficient
  • Coefficient of compositional similarity