Long birdsong creates competition

The variation in birdsong has been an enigma in scientific research, but researchers have come one step closer to decoding this complex language. 

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Long birdsong creates competition

Birds that sing for longer are more likely to elicit aggressive interactions from other birds, according to a new study.                                 

“We found that ortolan bunting males respond to simulated neighbour intrusion," said Tomasz Osiejuk and Aleksandra Jakubowska in the research paper, "and that they respond differently to songs of different durations by approaching the loudspeaker playing longer songs more quickly.”

Although a bird’s song sounds like a very merry tune, it is a testosterone filled battle cry to surrounding birds.

Songs vary in duration, complexity, pitch and timing, all providing information about a bird’s strength, to threaten male competition and attract a potential mate.

In an attempt to understand birdsong, researchers from the Institute of Environmental Biology in Poland investigated song duration in the ortolan bunting, to see how this variation is translated by other individuals.

They found that birds responded faster and more aggressively to a longer song.

It was also said that birds singing for less time may signal a lower threat, and that is why they are less likely to evoke an aggressive interaction.

Birds must be in peak condition to sing for a greater length of time as singing requires a lot of energy.

Therefore, researchers think longer songs may signal a stronger male.

Read the full paper in acta ethologica

 

Read more wildlife news stories in BBC Wildlife Magazine

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