Variation in Song Rate during the Breeding Cycle of the Chaffinch, Fringilla coelebs


Department of Zoology, Division of Ecology, P.O. Box 17, P. Rautatiekatu 13, SF-00014 University of Helsinki.


The variation in song rate during the breeding season was studied in two individually marked chaffinch Fringilla coelebs populations. We gathered data to investigate especially the recently presented mate-guarding hypothesis. The active singing has been supposed to function as a form of mate guarding during the female's fertile period by announcing the high status of the male and preventing extra-pair copulations by neighbouring males.

There was no clear dawn chorus in the chaffinch, i.e. a peak in the song rate before sunrise. Male chaffinches continued to sing after mating, but the song rate dropped significantly. In contrast to the mate-guarding hypothesis the song rate was lower during the fertile period of the female than during pre-mating and incubation. Thus, the males do not announce the fertility status of their mates or their own quality and status by active singing. The song does not function as a form of mate guarding in the chaffinch.

One function of the song of the chaffinch is mate attraction: singing activity was highest before pair formation in early spring and decreased after mating but increased again if the male lost his mate later in the breeding season.