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Factors Affecting the Structure of Song and the Singing Behaviour of Some Northern European Passerine Birds

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In this study the effects of bird size, genus, habitat, song community and geographical distribution on song structure and singing behaviour of some passcrine species in northern Europe were simultaneously studied. Most species tend to improve their long distance song propagation in their specific habitat and song community. Song propagation correlates strongest with the use of low-pitched elements but not all birds are able to use these because of size limitation. In forest habitats whistles and modulated elements were used to improve song propagation. In open habitats high-pitched elements as well as repeated and trilled syllables were often used for better propagation of acoustic information. In song communities with a great number of species, the birds reduce song interference by other singers, by singing short songs and using modulated elements and long intersong pauses. When the birds greatly profit from effective long distance song propagation, like in northern areas with only short time for pair formation, the birds can segregate in singing time by using the light nights for singing. In these communities with low numbers of species the birds have been freed from song interference and have long songs and short intersong pauses and they can increase in this way their singing rate. The effect of song community on song length, intersong pause and the use of modulated elements in the song is stronger than that of habitat. The effect of the song community increases towards the north.


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Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology, University of Joensuu, Box 111, SF-80101 Joensuu 10, Finland


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