We describe a new assay for measuring the response to song playback by adult female domesticated canaries, Serinus canaria. We tested song perception and discrimination by measuring the frequency of particular female calls (`single calls') given in response to male song playbacks. We observed that females responded differently to songs of different species (canaries vs. pine siskin, Carduelis spinus) and to songs of different canary strains (domesticated vs. wild canaries). In addition, females were especially responsive to songs containing a particular type of song phrase (`A' phrases).
This new assay provides equivalent results to the standard method (copulation solicitation displays) traditionally used to assess female song preferences. Our new assay has the advantage that it allows one to measure female song responsiveness without having to use estradiol implants and during both long and short day photoperiods. However, females responded differently in long and short days. We suggest that, by calling, females could both provide information about their sexual interest and attract the attention of particular males.