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Abstract

Signals used in communication often change throughout an individual’s life course. For example, in many song bird species, males modify their song especially between their first and second breeding season. To address one possible reason of such modification, we investigated whether common nightingales Luscinia megarhynchos adjust their song type repertoires to sing the song types commonly occurring in their breeding population. We analysed nocturnal singing of six nightingales in their first and second breeding season and compared their repertoire composition and usage to the ‘typical’ repertoire and usage on the breeding ground (represented by seven reference birds). Songs that were maintained between the first and second season by the six focal birds occurred in most of the repertoires of the seven reference birds and were sung often. In contrast, song types that were dropped from the repertoires occurred less often in the reference birds’ repertoires and were sung less often. Furthermore, in the first year, each focal nightingale’s repertoire was less similar to the reference birds’ repertoires than in the second year. Thus, nightingales adjusted their singing towards the songs popular in the breeding grounds by keeping song types that were common and frequently sung by other individuals in their breeding area and by disposing of infrequently performed ones. This resulted in increased similarity with the population’s repertoire from the first to the second year. We discuss possible ontogenetic processes that may lead to such an adjustment and suggest an improved ability to match song types as possible adaptive value.