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Effect of Number, Kind and Order of Song Elements On Playback Responses of the Golden-Winged Warbler

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The Golden-winged Warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera) has a simple, stereotyped song consisting of an introductory trill (Z) followed by a variable number of similar lower-pitched trills (B). Individual variation is slight, with overlap in the seven individuals studied in syllables per trill, maximum and minimum frequency (pitch), frequency range, duration and interval. However, differences in frequency and perhaps number of syllables per trill may be sufficient for individual recognition. Species recognition probably depends on the grosser aspects of the same parameters. Playback experiments were conducted with both natural and artificial songs to test the effects of number, kind and ordering of trills. Responses were measured in terms of number of playbacks within 30 feet of the speaker. A rigid ordering is necessary for maximal responsiveness with the Z preceding any B trills. The natural song is "read" from the first Z trill to the last B trill. Responsiveness differed according to the number of B trills. Both the Z and B trills are necessary for maximal responsiveness. The minimum effective song was ZB, a naturally occurring song in conflict situations. The song of this species is particularly rich in possibilities for transmitting motivational information. We suggest that such information transfer occurs through varying the number of B trills, amplitude, rate of singing and major changes in the song (frequency, syllables per trill, interval).

Affiliations: 1: Zoology Dept., University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wisc., U.S.A.

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