Duetting behavior in a Neotropical ovenbird: sexual and seasonal variation and adaptive signaling functions

Diniz, Pedro; Silva Júnior, Edvaldo; Webster, M.; Macedo, Regina

10 January 2018

Duetting is a collective behavior and might have multiple functions, including joint territory defense and mate guarding. An important step toward understanding the adaptive function of bird song is to determine if and how singing behavior varies seasonally. However, seasonal patterns for duetting species are different from the pattern described for species in which only the male sings, because song function may vary according to sex, singing role (initiator vs. responder) and level of duet organization (individual vs. pair). We investigated whether patterns of seasonal variation in duetting depends on these factors, which would suggest different interpretations of song function. We studied social pairs of a Neotropical bird species (rufous hornero Furnarius rufus) for seven consecutive months, recording vocal and territorial behaviors. Overall, partners coordinated 61% of their songs into duets and many song traits (song initiation rate, song output and duet rate) peaked in territorial contexts. Males engaged in territorial interactions with strangers more often, initiated more songs, and answered proportionately more of their partners’ songs than females. Male song initiation rate peaked during the pre- and post-breeding stages, whereas females initiated more songs during the non-breeding season. Both sexes answered partner songs faster and at higher rates during the pre-breeding and female fertile stages. Partners duetted at a higher rate during the pre- and post-breeding stages. Finally, song initiation rates and duet rate, but not song answering rates, correlated with frequency of territorial interactions with strangers. Although our findings indicate that song function may vary with sex, singing role and level of duet organization, our results suggest that in general duet functions to defend common territories and as a mutual mate guarding strategy in the rufous hornero.

Doi
10.1111/jav.01637