Carolina Chickadee (Aves, Paridae, Poecile carolinensis) Vocalization Rates: Effects of Body Mass and Food Availability under Aviary Conditions


Corresponding author: J. R. Lucas, Department of Biological Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA. E-mail:


We evaluated the effect of body mass and several environmental factors on vocalization rates of Carolina chickadees (Poecile carolinensis) housed in an aviary. Two different nonsong vocalizations (tseet and chick-a-dee) and song (fee-bee fee-bay) were recorded. Food was delivered from a feeder and three different levels of food access were presented to each bird: 10, 40 and 55 min/d. Two scales of body mass were measured: ‘dawn mass’ and ‘focal mass’ (mass during a focal observation divided by dawn mass). Across all birds, there was a significant negative correlation between both nonsong vocalization rates and body mass (both dawn and focal mass) and the effect of mass on call rate was greatest for days when food was relatively abundant. Nonsong vocalizations were also given at higher rates when food was limited (10 min/d) than when food was more abundant (40 and 55 min/d). No changes in call rates with time of day were observed. Overall, song rates were substantially lower than nonsong rates. Unlike nonsong rates, song rates were highest in birds that had relatively high dawn mass. No significant correlation between song rates and focal mass was observed, and no significant correlation between song rates and time of day was observed. Finally, vocalizations from nonfocal birds had little effect on vocalization rates of focal birds. Our results suggest that nonsong communicative signals are more important for birds facing energetic stress, while song is more important for birds that are not energetically stressed.