Understanding the function of nocturnal song in ovenbirds: males do not countersing at night

Foote, Jennifer R. ; Marini, Kristen; AL-Ani, Homam

6 April 2018

Many diurnal bird species vocalize at night, however the function of nocturnal song is, generally, still poorly understood. Previous research has suggested that nocturnal song may serve a social function and is influenced by environmental factors. To test whether males attend to the nocturnal song of conspecifics, we experimentally exposed ovenbirds (Seiurus aurocapilla) to nocturnal flight songs, and recorded their response both during the night and during the following dawn chorus. We compared latency to song and vocal output before and after playback exposure to determine if males altered their vocalizations in response to exposure to flight songs from an unknown male. We found no evidence of counter singing or change in nocturnal song output, nor a change in vocal output during the dawn chorus following playback exposure. Our results suggest that, in ovenbirds, nocturnal song does not serve as an intraspecific social function. Nocturnal song, through rare, may be significant in the mating systems of some diurnal bird species, and requires additional study.