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The Role of Pitch Cues in Song Recognition By Carolina Chickadees (Parus Carolinensis)

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Carolina chickadees sing songs characterized by obvious frequency changes between adjacent notes. Several songbird species have been suggested to use the pitch interval cues available from frequency ratios in their song for song recognition. We evaluated whether Carolina chickadees use pitch interval cues in song recognition using playback of song in the field to territorial males as a response assay. In contrast to previous studies, we found a similar response to songs with altered frequency ratios as to those with normal ratios, suggesting that pitch interval cues are not important for song recognition in Carolina chickadees. We also demonstrate that Carolina chickadees do not distinguish between recordings of naturally produced songs and songs synthesized using measured parameters of natural songs, validating our approach to experimental manipulation of song parameters. Our results indicate that different songbird species may be using different mechanisms for recognizing conspecifics.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Zoology, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708; 2: ) Department of Psychology, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, K7L 3N6 Canada


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