Constant Proportions of Mixed Singers in Tree Creeper Populations (Certhia familiaris)


Max-Planck-Institut für Verhaltensphysiologie, Vogelwarte Radolfzell, Am Obstberg, D-7760 Radolfzell 16 (Möggingen).


Of 205 tree creeper males in 7 syntopic populations 69 (34%) were mixed singers. Of these, 17 sang complete short-toed tree creeper song, six sang incomplete and 46 sang only one element thereof. In three populations (Neuenburg, Wendhausen, Kenzingen) there was a dominance of mixed singers, in another population (Lorettowald) a large proportion was present. Only one mixed singer was found in each of the last three populations (Freiburg, Bodanrück, Seerücken).

Three populations had high proportions of mixed singers between 1960 and 1970 and later in 1983 and/or 1984. Two other populations had only one mixed singer in both periods. A small isolated population of 4 to 5 tree creeper pairs (Lorettowald) with many mixed singers was surrounded by populations with low proportions of mixed singers (Bodanrück, Seerücken).

The proportions of different forms of mixed songs in Neuenburg in 1983 and 1984 were almost identical to those in the 1960′s whereas highly significant changes occurred in Kenzingen.

The pronounced differences in the songs of tree creepers and short-toed tree creepers probably do not result from contrast reinforcement. Mixed song is also probably not caused by character (vocal) convergence according to Cody (1969) and Dobkin (1979). Instead, it seems more probable that mixed song results from errors in copying, which are passed on to the next offspring by cultural transmission.