Hypotheses that song repertoire evolves by way of directional sexual selection for large repertoires were examined with a comparative study of the avian subfamily Icterinae (Passeriformes: Emberiznae). Song repertoire size varies between closely related icterine species, so phylogenetic effects cannot explain repertoire size variation. Overall, song repertoire is not associated with polygyny or with presence or absence of territoriality.
Different associations of repertoire with mating system are observed in different icterine groups. Either the directional hypotheses do not apply to the evolution of song repertoire in the Icterinae, or different processes of directional sexual selection have occurred in different icterine groups.