Seasonal variation in dawn song characteristics in the common nightingale

Hansjoerg Kunc, V. Amrhein, M. Naguib

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Citations (Scopus)


Many male temperate zone passerines show a marked peak of singing activity before sunrise. The two main functions of this so-called dawn chorus are mate attraction and territory defence. We examined how seasonal patterns of different dawn song characteristics were related to mating status and to the breeding cycle of females in the common nightingale, Luscinia megarhynchos. We investigated two measures of song output: song rate and percentage performance time. We also calculated the proportion of 'whistle songs', a song category that is thought to be important in female choice. We predicted that if the main function of dawn singing in nightingales is to attract a social mate, then mated males should change their dawn singing behaviour after pair formation. In contrast, if dawn singing is mainly used in territory defence, we expected no difference in song traits between mated and unmated males throughout the season. We found that song rate and the proportion of whistle songs were low at the beginning of the season and did not predict future mating status. After arrival of females, all measures of dawn song performance remained largely constant throughout the breeding season, and we did not find significant differences in the seasonal variation between mated and unmated males. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that song at dawn is important to defend a territory throughout the breeding season. (c) 2005 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1265-1271
Number of pages7
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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