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Acoustic features of song categories and their possible implications for communication in the common nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos)

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In many passerine species, males sing more than one distinct song type. Commonly, songs are assigned to different song types or song categories based on phonological and syntactical dissimilarities. However, temporal aspects, such as song length and song rate, also need to be considered to understand the possible functions of different songs. Common nightingales (Luscinia megarhynchos) have large vocal repertoires of different song types but their songs additionally can be grouped into two distinct categories (particular groups of song types): whistle songs and nonwhistle songs. Whistle songs are hypothesised to be important to attract migrating females. We studied temporal properties of whistle songs and nonwhistle songs and examined the relationship between those song parameters and song output parameters, such as song rate and song length. To investigate how song parameters vary among males, we calculated the coefficients of variation for different song traits. We found that the variation in the proportion of whistle songs was significantly higher among males than variation in other song parameters. Furthermore, the proportion of whistle songs was negatively correlated with other song output patterns. These findings suggest that the production of whistle songs might be constrained and/or that whistle songs and their succeeding pauses may act as a functional unit in communication.

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