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Dawn chorus start time variation in a temperate bird community: relationships with seasonality, weather, and ambient light

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The avian dawn chorus is a daily period of high song output performed predominantly during the breeding season. Dawn chorus performance varies at both the individual and species level. The many extrinsic factors that may relate to dawn chorus start times for different North American bird species have received little attention. In this study, we consider relationships between dawn chorus start times and ambient temperature, precipitation, cloud cover, lunar phase, and Julian date for six common bird species living in a northern temperate rural area. Overall, birds began singing earlier with full or third quarter moon (when moonlight is present at dawn) and with increasing temperature at nautical twilight, and birds began singing later with the presence of cloud cover and precipitation. Our results indicate that a different suite of environmental factors influenced the chorus start times of different species and to different degrees. Alder flycatchers begin singing earliest in this group of birds, followed by Song Sparrows, White-throated Sparrows, American Robins, Eastern Phoebes, and Black-capped Chickadees. This investigation reveals that extrinsic abiotic factors have a significant effect on the dawn chorus start times of north temperate birds, and represents the first comprehensive study of dawn chorus start time variation in North American birds.


Variation im Beginn des Morgengesangs in einer Brutvogelgemeinschaft gemäßigter Zonen: Beziehungen mit Saisonalität, Wetter und Umgebungslicht

Der Morgengesang von Vögeln ist täglich eine Periode hoher Gesangsaktivität vorwiegend während der Brutzeit. Die Darbietung des Morgengesangs variiert sowohl auf dem Individuen- als auch auf dem Artniveau. Den vielen extrinsischen Faktoren, mit denen der Beginn des morgendlichen Gesangs verschiedener nordamerikanischer Vogelarten zusammenhängt, wurde wenig Beachtung geschenkt. In dieser Studie betrachten wir die Zusammenhänge zwischen dem Beginn des Morgengesangs und der Umgebungstemperatur, Niederschlag, Bewölkung, Mondphase und Julianisches Datum für sechs verbreitete Vogelarten in einem nördlichen gemäßigten ländlichen Gebiet. Insgesamt begannen die Vögel früher zu singen bei Voll- oder Dreiviertelmond (Mondlicht noch in der Dämmerung) und mit ansteigender Temperatur während der nautischen Dämmerung. Die Vögel begannen später zu singen bei Bewölkung und Niederschlag. Unsere Ergebnisse deuten darauf hin, dass unterschiedliche Umweltfaktoren den Gesangsbeginn verschiedener Arten in unterschiedlicher Weise beeinflussen. Erlentyrannen beginnen am frühestens mit dem Gesang, gefolgt von Singammer, Weißkehlammer, Wanderdrossel, Weißbauch-Phoebetyrann und Schwarzkopfmeise. Die Untersuchung zeigte, dass extrinsische abiotische Faktoren einen signifikanten Effekt auf den Beginn des Morgengesangs von Vögeln nördlicher gemäßigter Zonen haben. Diese Studie ist zudem die erste Umfassende zu Variationen im Beginn des Morgengesangs nordamerikanischer Vögel.

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We thank L. Lobert and K. Longo for field assistance. We thank residents of Echo Bay, Ontario for access to property. We thank the Editor and two anonymous reviewers for helping us to improve the manuscript. We thank the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation, the University of Windsor, and Algoma University for funding. The research described complies with the current laws of Canada and received Algoma University Animal Care Committee approval (2012-JF-R01).

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Correspondence to Jennifer R. Foote.

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Communicated by O. Krüger.

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Fig. S1 Sound spectrograms of the six focal species : (a) Alder Flycatcher, (b) Song Sparrow, (c) White-throated Sparrow, (d) Eastern Phoebe, and (f) Black-capped Chickadee (PPTX 254 kb)


Fig. S2 Variation in dawn chorus start times is exhibited by different north temperate bird species living in the same area. Alder Flycatchers (ALFL) begin dawn chorusing earliest in relation to nautical twilight, followed respectively by Song Sparrows (SOSP), White-throated Sparrows (WTSP), American Robins (AMRO), Eastern Phoebes (EAPH), and Black-capped Chickadees (BCCH). Error bars represent standard deviation (EPS 58 kb)

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Bruni, A., Mennill, D.J. & Foote, J.R. Dawn chorus start time variation in a temperate bird community: relationships with seasonality, weather, and ambient light. J Ornithol 155, 877–890 (2014).

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