Bird song and the problem of honest communication

William Searcy, Stephen Nowicki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Most animals communication information about their fitness through vocalizations directed to potential mates and competitors alike. Signal reliability is now a central question in animal behavior. Researchers are studying signaling in male song sparrows which use the same songs for both courtship and aggression. Each male song sparrow sings a repertoire of 5-15 different song types. In song sparrows, once repertoires are crystallized at one year of age, they remain stable through the rest of the bird's life. On the one hand, female song sparrows respond preferentially to larger song repertoires. Male song sparrows with large song repertoires produce more offspring and grand-offspring than do males with smaller repertoires, suggesting that females benefit from mating with males with more potential songs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)114-121
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Scientist
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Materials Science (miscellaneous)


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