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The function of breeding season chip calls by female hooded warblers (Wilsonia citrina)

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We document use of 'chip' vocalizations by breeding female hooded warblers (Wilsonia citrina) and propose explanations for the function of the calls. Fertile females (building or laying stage) chip differently than incubating females, via a lower chip rate, shorter bouts of chipping and more bouts per hour. Females responded to playbacks of fertile chipping and a female model on their territories by approaching and chip calling. Resident males were generally not responsive to their mate's chip calls and did not move closer when their mates chipped; however, neighbouring males often intruded onto territories in response to female chip calls. Neighbouring males did not distinguish between playbacks of fertile and incubation chip calls, but responded to both at equally low frequencies. Radio-tracked neighbouring males intruded onto territories significantly more frequently when females were chipping than when they were silent. Such intrusions likely function as extra-pair mating attempts. Finally, variation in call pattern among fertile females did not correlate with frequency of extra-pair young. Our study provides some support that chip calls of hooded warblers function in female territory defence and attraction of potential extra-pair males but further testing of these hypotheses is required.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology, York University, North York, ON, Canada, Department of Biological Sciences, Box 2116, Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, TX 77341, USA;, Email:; 2: Department of Biology, York University, North York, ON, Canada; 3: Molecular Genetics Laboratory, National Zoological Park, Washington, DC, USA, Department of Biological Sciences, 1 University Dr, Chapman University, Orange, CA 92866, USA.


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