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Female Pied Flycatchers Respond Differently to Songs of Mates, Neighbours and Strangers

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In a field experiment we show that female pied flycatchers, Ficedula hypoleuca, can learn male song quickly. Of the 16 females that responded to playback of mate's song and stranger's song, 13 responded only, or approached sooner and stayed longer in response to the song of their own mate. Of these females 11 females responded solely to their own mate's song. The number of days the females had been mated had no effect on their response (range 1 to 7 days, median 3). The result may be explained as females recognizing their mates' song or that they responded to familiar songs. In a second set of experiments, we therefore tested females with a neighbour's song and a stranger's song, broadcasting the neighbour's song either from the direction where he usually sang or from the opposite direction. Only 8 of 19 females responded to playback; when the song was broadcasted from the direction where the male usually sang, none of the females responded, while 8 of 12 females responded by approaching and staying near the speaker during the trials when the song was broadcasted from the opposite direction. Thus, female pied flycatchers show individual recognition of male neighbours as has been shown in males of some other species. We therefore infer that the strong response to mates' song may also indicate individual recognition. It could be advantageous for females to respond to both mates and to neighbours but for different reasons, i.e. mate defence and territory defence, respectively.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology, Division of Zoology, University of Oslo, N-0316 Oslo, Norway;, Email:; 2: Department of Biology, Division of Zoology, University of Oslo, N-0316 Oslo, Norway


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