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Variation in the song of a sub-oscine, the vermilion flycatcher

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[Most studies on song variation have focused on oscine birds, whereas sub-oscine singing has seldom been described in detail, with variation in song structure and performance rarely quantified. Yet this information is required to formulate hypotheses regarding possible coding of individuality, motivational or breeding status, and also for a more informed comparison of oscine versus sub-oscine song. To this end we recorded songs of 12 territorial males of a Central Mexican population of the vermilion flycatchers (Pyrocephalus rubinus) throughout the breeding season. We found that: (1) although all males sang only one general form of song, both song structure and performance showed substantial seasonal and inter-individual variation; (2) this variation was most pronounced in the number of introductory elements; (3) after the onset of nest construction, both the number of introductory elements and the song rate changed. We discuss some possible functions of this variation. La mayoría de los estudios sobre variación del canto se han enfocado a aves oscinas, mientras que la actividad del canto en suboscinos rara vez se ha descrito en forma detallada y casi no hay cuantificaciones de la variación en estructura del canto y en desempeño. Empero, esta información es necesaria para formular hipótesis relacionadas con una posible codificación de la individualidad, del estado motivacional o reproductivo, y para poder comparar con más información el canto de los oscinos con el canto de los suboscinos. Con este fin grabamos cantos de 12 machos territoriales de papamoscas cardenalito (Pyrocephalus rubinus), en una población del centro de México, durante la temporada reproductiva. Encontramos que: (1) aunque todos los machos cantaron una sola forma general de canto, tanto aspectos de la estructura como del desempeño mostraron variación substancial entre machos y a través de la temporada; (2) esta variación fue más pronunciada en el número de elementos introductorios; (3) después del inicio de la construcción del nido, el número de elementos introductorios y la tasa de canto se modificaron. Discutimos algunas posibles funciones de esta variación., Most studies on song variation have focused on oscine birds, whereas sub-oscine singing has seldom been described in detail, with variation in song structure and performance rarely quantified. Yet this information is required to formulate hypotheses regarding possible coding of individuality, motivational or breeding status, and also for a more informed comparison of oscine versus sub-oscine song. To this end we recorded songs of 12 territorial males of a Central Mexican population of the vermilion flycatchers (Pyrocephalus rubinus) throughout the breeding season. We found that: (1) although all males sang only one general form of song, both song structure and performance showed substantial seasonal and inter-individual variation; (2) this variation was most pronounced in the number of introductory elements; (3) after the onset of nest construction, both the number of introductory elements and the song rate changed. We discuss some possible functions of this variation.]

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