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Song Amplitude of Rival Males Modulates the Territorial Behaviour of Great Tits During the Fertile Period of Their Mates


Mathias Ritschard, Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Communication and Social Behaviour Group, Eberhard-Gwinner-Strasse, 82319 Seewiesen, Germany.


Bird song is a widely used model in the study of sexual selection. Variation in the expression of sexually selected traits is thought to reflect variation in male genetic and/or phenotypic quality. Vocal amplitude is a song parameter that has received little attention in the context of sexual selection, but there is some evidence that the intensity of bird song affects female preferences. Here, we tested whether the amplitude of broadcast song plays a role in male–male competition. We used song playback with varying song amplitude (within the natural amplitude range of the species) and a dummy bird taxidermy to simulate territorial intrusions in the great tit, Parus major, during the fertile period of the female and measured the response of the local male. The results show that playback amplitude significantly affected the subjects’ behaviour: after approaching to within 25 m around the loudspeaker, territorial males stayed longer within that perimeter after the playback of high-amplitude songs compared with low-amplitude songs. Our findings add to the small but growing body of evidence suggesting that vocal amplitude may be a sexually selected song trait.