Journal of Ornithology

, Volume 157, Issue 3, pp 853–860 | Cite as

Seasonal and daily patterns of nocturnal singing in the Field Sparrow (Spizella pusilla)

  • Antonio Celis-MurilloEmail author
  • Kirk W. Stodola
  • Brian Pappadopoli
  • Jessica M. Burton
  • Michael P. Ward
Original Article


Nocturnal singing in diurnal birds is poorly described in the literature and is not well understood. Most research has been limited to the documentation of the behavior, with little information regarding the patterns and function of nocturnal song. We used autonomous acoustic recording units and automated detection and classification algorithms to examine the seasonal and nocturnal patterns of song in the Field Sparrow, Spizella pusilla, a diurnal songbird. We used a generalized linear mixed model to investigate the patterns in the probability of recording each of the two song types described for the species (simple and complex) at night from 7938 10-min recordings from 14 different individuals singing in six different grassland patches. We fit different models investigating the influence of date within the season and time period during the night, and compared models using the Bayesian information criterion. Male Field Sparrows sang both simple and complex songs during the early stages of territory settlement and mate acquisition. However, as the breeding season progressed, we detected fewer instances of simple song, while the occurrence of complex song increased, reaching its peak during the height of reproductive activity. The seasonal pattern of simple and complex songs suggests that they may have a similar function at night and during the day, with simple songs used for inter-sexual interactions and complex songs used for intrasexual functions. Consequently, the role and function of nocturnal song may be more important for reproductive activities than previously assumed.


Birdsong Nocturnal vocalizations Nocturnal singing Acoustic recording Automatic recognition Field Sparrow 


Saisonale und tägliche Muster des nächtlichen Gesangs bei Klapperammern ( Spizella pusilla )

Der nächtliche Gesang tagaktiver Vögel ist unzureichend beschrieben und wenig untersucht. Der Großteil der Forschung beschränkte sich auf die Dokumentation dieses Verhaltens mit wenig Informationen zu Mustern und Funktion des nächtlichen Gesangs. Wir nutzen autonome akustische Aufnahmeeinheiten und automatisierte Erfassungs- und Klassifikationsalgorithmen zur Untersuchung der saisonalen und nächtlichen Muster des Gesangs von Klapperammern, Spizella pusilla, einer tagaktiven Singvogelart. In 7938 nächtlichen 10-Minuten-Aufnahmen von 14 verschiedenen singenden Individuen in sechs unterschiedlichen Grünlandflächen analysierten wir die Muster der Aufnahmewahrscheinlichkeit für jeden der beiden Gesangstypen, die für die Art (einfach und komplex) beschrieben sind, mit Hilfe eines generalisierten linearen gemischten Modells. Wir passten verschiedene Modelle an, um den Einfluss des Datums innerhalb der Saison und der zeitlichen Periode während der Nacht zu ermitteln und verglichen die Modelle mit Hilfe des Bayesischen Informationskriteriums. Männliche Klapperammern singen sowohl einfache als auch komplexe Strophen während der frühen Phasen der Revierbesetzung und Partnerwahl. Allerdings stellten wir mit fortschreitender Brutsaison weniger Fälle von einfachem Gesang fest, während das Auftreten von komplexen Gesängen anstieg und seinen Höhepunkt erreichte, als die reproduktive Aktivität am größten war. Das saisonale Muster von einfachen und komplexen Gesängen lässt ähnliche Funktionen während der Nacht und des Tages vermuten, wo einfache Gesänge für intersexuelle Interaktionen und komplexe Gesänge für intrasexuelle Funktionen eingesetzt werden. Folglich könnte die Rolle und Funktion des nächtlichen Gesangs weitaus wichtiger sein für die Reproduktion, als bisher angenommen.



We thank the assistants and undergraduate students for their help in the field and laboratory. We also thank the Vermilion County Conservation District for permission to conduct research at Kennekuk Cove County Park.


This research is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF-DDIG-14070801), the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and the Illinois Ornithological Society (IOS).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This research was conducted under the University of Illinois Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, IACUC protocol #10127, and a USGS bird banding permit (23577).

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Supplementary material

10336_2015_1318_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (10 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (XLSX 9 kb)


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Copyright information

© Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V. 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Natural Resources and Environmental SciencesUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUrbanaUSA

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