A Novel Context for Bird Song: Predator Calls Prompt Male Singing in the Kleptogamous Superb Fairy-wren, Malurus cyaneus

Authors

  • Naomi E. Langmore,

    Corresponding author
    1. Evolutionary Ecology Group, Division of Botany and Zoology, Australian National University, Canberra
    Search for more papers by this author
    • 3

      Langmore, N. E. & Mulder, R. A. 1992: A novel context for bird song: predator calls prompt male singing in the kleptogamous superb fairy-wren, Malurus cyaneus. Ethology 90, 143–153.

  • Raoul A. Mulder

    1. Evolutionary Ecology Group, Division of Botany and Zoology, Australian National University, Canberra
    Search for more papers by this author
    • 3

      Langmore, N. E. & Mulder, R. A. 1992: A novel context for bird song: predator calls prompt male singing in the kleptogamous superb fairy-wren, Malurus cyaneus. Ethology 90, 143–153.


Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 3EJ, U.K.

Abstract

The cooperatively breeding superb fairy-wren, Malurus cyaneus, sings two types of song; a variable, complex song sung by both sexes, and a relatively invariant, stereotyped song sung only by males. Field observations and playback experiments revealed that the male song could be triggered by a variety of loud avian and non-avian vocalizations, but was triggered most frequently by the calls of predators or potential predators. The male song is sung both within the territory and in winter feeding flocks outside the territory. Acoustic properties of the song suggest that it is a long-range signal. A possible explanation for this unusual phenomenon is that the male song has evolved through sexual selection as an honest signal to females of male quality, for the purpose of obtaining extra-pair copulations.

Ancillary