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Song Sharing in Neighboring and Non-Neighboring Thrush Nightingales (Luscinia luscinia) and its Implications for Communication


Marc Naguib Department of Animal Behavior, University of Bielefeld, PO Box 100131, 33501 Bielefeld, Germany. E-mail:


In many passerines, males have repertoires of different songs of which some songs are often shared with other males. Sharing of song repertoires among males can provide insights into the context in which songs were acquired and on the role of song repertoires in inter- and intrasexual communication. Here we studied repertoire sharing in male territorial thrush nightingales (Luscinia luscinia). We compared male vocal repertoires of the basic song components, full songs, and the sequencing of songs in a bout. The results show that males differed significantly in the size of their song repertoires but not in the size of the repertoire of basic song components. Moreover, they shared almost all (80%) the repertoire of song components but only 30% of their song types. Neighboring males shared significantly more song types than did non-neighboring males but interestingly they did not share more basic song components than non-neighboring males. These results show that the repertoire of basic song components is under much less sexual selection than the size of song repertoires. Sharing of song repertoires among neighbors presumably results from repertoire conversion over time and from males returning to their territories in the following season. Repertoire sharing then can be an indicator of territory tenure and thus it can be important in repelling rivals and in female choice.

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