Acoustic Monitoring Reveals Congruent Patterns of Territorial Singing Behaviour in Male and Female Tropical Wrens


Anneka E. Osmun and Daniel J. Mennill, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Windsor, 401 Sunset Avenue, Windsor, ON, Canada N9B3P4.
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Many animals defend territories against conspecific individuals using acoustic signals. In birds, male vocalizations are known to play a critical role in territory defence. Territorial acoustic signals in females have been poorly studied, perhaps because female song is uncommon in north-temperate ecosystems. In this study, we compare male vs. female territorial singing behaviour in Neotropical rufous-and-white wrens Thryothorus rufalbus, a species where both sexes produce solo songs and often coordinate their songs in vocal duets. We recorded free-living birds in Costa Rica using an eight-microphone Acoustic Location System capable of passively triangulating the position of animals based on their vocalizations. We recorded 17 pairs of birds for 2–4 consecutive mornings and calculated the territory of each individual as a 95% fixed kernel estimate around their song posts. We compared territories calculated around male vs. female song posts, including separate analyses of solo vs. duet song posts. These spatial analyses of singing behaviour reveal that males and females use similarly sized territories with more than 60% overlap between breeding partners. Territories calculated based on solo vs. duet song posts were of similar size and similar degrees of overlap. Solos and duets were performed at similar distances from the nest for both sexes. Overall, male and female rufous-and-white wrens exhibit very similar spatial territorial singing behaviour, demonstrating congruent patterns of male and female territoriality.