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Song Tutor Choice in Polyandrous Dunnocks


N. E. Langmore, Zoology Department, Downing Street, Cambridge, CB2 3EJ, UK. E-mail:


The songs of a population of wild dunnocks, Prunella modularis, were recorded over 3 yrs to investigate song tutor choice by first year males. Young males often settled on occupied territories as subordinates and most of their earliest territorial interactions were with the male on whose territory they settled (the co-male). Yearlings learned their song repertoire from their comales and territorial neighbours. This supports results of laboratory studies which suggest that social interactions influence song tutor choice and that yearlings are most likely to learn from the males that are most aggressive towards them. Repertoire overlap between neighbouring males was high (76%), so learning the repertoire of the comale may provide yearling males with a ‘short cut’ route to learning a few of the songs of every neighbour.