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Seasonal singing patterns and individual consistency in song activity in female European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris)

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Nearly all studies on seasonal changes in song behaviour have focused on male songbirds and detailed studies on seasonal patterns of song activity in females are lacking. Here, we present information on the annual cycle of song activity in female European Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) housed in a large outdoor aviary in a single-sex situation (except for the breeding season when males were introduced) and examine social and environmental factors motivating singing behaviour. Female song activity varied significantly throughout the year and was highest during December-mid April. Little or no song was produced when males were present (mid April-June) and in July. With these exceptions, females produced song in every month of the year. A high proportion of females occupied a nestbox throughout the year. Females occupying a nestbox sang significantly more than females without a nestbox, independently of the period. During March and early April females owning a nestbox sang significantly more in their nestbox and/or defended it more often, suggesting that song in that period is produced in the context of intrasexual competition. There was a large individual variation in song rates among females. Furthermore, song rates of individual females were repeatable across the year.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology, University of Antwerp, Universiteitsplein 1, B-2610 Wilrijk, Belgium


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