Temporal patterning of within-song type and between-song type variation in song repertoires

Stephen Nowicki, Jeffrey Podos, Frances Valdés

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


In many songbird species, males sing a repertoire of distinct song types. Song sparrows typically are described as having repertoires of about a dozen song types, but these song types are themselves quite variable and some songs are produced that appear intermediate between two types. In this study we quantify the similarity between successive songs produced by song sparrows in order to determine if differences between song types are emphasized or deemphasized in bouts of continuous singing. In spite of the high degree of variation within song types and similarity between song types observed in this species, we show that transitions from one song type to the next are distinct as compared to transitions within sequences of the same type (Figs. 4 and 5). Variation does not "accumulate" across sequences of the same song type, and the average variation observed within a continuous sequence of the same song type is significantly less than is predicted from the total variation recorded for that type across many different bouts (Fig. 6). These results support the view that song sparrows include two levels of variation in their singing: differences between song types as is commonly observed in species with song repertoires, and an independent level of variation observed for songs of the same type.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)329-335
Number of pages7
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 1994


  • Repertoires
  • Sexual selection
  • Song types

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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