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Seasonal Changes in the Song Pattern of the Non-Domesticated Island Canary (Serinus Canaria) a Field Study

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[The domesticated canary (Serinus canaria) is one of the most widely used songbird species to study (1) neural mechanisms of behavioural plasticity and (2) mechanisms of song based female mate choice. Despite numerous studies of the singing and seasonal changes in the song of these animals under laboratory conditions, the present paper describes the results of the first systematic study of the song of the non-domesticated, free-living relatives of the domesticated canary, the island canary (Serinus canaria). The songs of ringed males of the canary population Ilhéu Chão (Madeira) were studied at different times of the year including the spring breeding and autumnal non-breeding season. In the breeding season songs are on average longer and the repetition rate of syllables is higher compared to the non-breeding season. The syllable repertoire size does not change seasonally. Longitudinal studies of individual males confirm these results of the population average. Further, this approach showed that the repertoire composition of individual males changes seasonally with a significant increase of fast-frequency modulated syllables and a decrease of whistle-type syllables during the breeding season. Playback experiments showed that the fastfrequency modulated syllables of the male island canaries are sexually attractive, if used in standard courtship solicitation tests with female canaries under laboratory conditions. This suggests that seasonal changes in the song temporal pattern are a general feature of canaries, domesticated or not while seasonal changes in repertoire composition is an adaptive feature of island canaries, most likely lost during domestication., The domesticated canary (Serinus canaria) is one of the most widely used songbird species to study (1) neural mechanisms of behavioural plasticity and (2) mechanisms of song based female mate choice. Despite numerous studies of the singing and seasonal changes in the song of these animals under laboratory conditions, the present paper describes the results of the first systematic study of the song of the non-domesticated, free-living relatives of the domesticated canary, the island canary (Serinus canaria). The songs of ringed males of the canary population Ilhéu Chão (Madeira) were studied at different times of the year including the spring breeding and autumnal non-breeding season. In the breeding season songs are on average longer and the repetition rate of syllables is higher compared to the non-breeding season. The syllable repertoire size does not change seasonally. Longitudinal studies of individual males confirm these results of the population average. Further, this approach showed that the repertoire composition of individual males changes seasonally with a significant increase of fast-frequency modulated syllables and a decrease of whistle-type syllables during the breeding season. Playback experiments showed that the fastfrequency modulated syllables of the male island canaries are sexually attractive, if used in standard courtship solicitation tests with female canaries under laboratory conditions. This suggests that seasonal changes in the song temporal pattern are a general feature of canaries, domesticated or not while seasonal changes in repertoire composition is an adaptive feature of island canaries, most likely lost during domestication.]

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