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Song Rate Correlates With Paternal Care and Survival in Willow Tits: Advertisement of Male Quality?

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Dawn song in birds may advertise male quality in terms of parental care and/or survival. Males who sing most may also be the best parents, and eager singing may also reflect good chances of a male's or his mate's survival. These relationships were studied in the willow tit Parus montanus, a species with a simple and relatively non-variant song. Song output was expressed as the proportion of time a male spent singing at dawn. Later in the breeding season, two aspects of parental care, nest defence and feeding effort, were measured in the same males. High song output was associated with more intense nest defence behaviour (eager singers attacked the predator model more often and approached closer to it) and high nestling feeding effort. However, reproductive success was not associated with song output, although males with high song rates tended to be more likely to produce recruits. Males who survived to the next year had higher song intensity than males who did not survive, while female survival was not correlated with song output of her mate. The results suggest that dawn song in the willow tit advertises male quality. Some aspects of honest advertisement and female choice are discussed.

Affiliations: 1: (Department of Biology, University of Oulu, P.O. Box 333, FIN-90571 Oulu, Finland


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