Interspecific Differences in the Response of Female Birds to Song Repertoires

William Searcy, Peter Marler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


The functional significance of the wide variation between bird species in the sizes of individual song repertoires is not understood. We have studied the effects of song repertoires on females. Song triggers copulation solicitation display in female sparrows treated with estradiol. Song sparrow males (Melospiza melodia) have repertoires of about 10 song types, and female song sparrows display significantly more to presentations of large repertoires than to a single song type. By contrast, male field sparrows (Spizella pusilla) and white‐throated sparrows (Zonotrichia albicollis) each have only one song type, and their females show no significant increment in responsiveness to repertoires of several song types over a single song type. Swamp sparrows (Melospiza georgiana) fall in between, with male repertoires of three song types. Female swamp sparrows behave in intermediate fashion, responding more to several song types than to one, but the response increment is less than in song sparrows. Thus species differences that males exhibit in song repertoires are paralleled by differences in female responsiveness to multiple song types, implicating variations in female reactivity in the evolution of song repertoires. Female song sparrows respond preferentially to repertoires programmed in eventual variety rather than immediate variety, while field sparrows and white‐throated sparrows show no discrimination. 1984 Blackwell Verlag GmbH

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)128-142
Number of pages15
JournalZeitschrift für Tierpsychologie
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1984
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


Dive into the research topics of 'Interspecific Differences in the Response of Female Birds to Song Repertoires'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this