Low-pitched song indicates fairy-wren size

Posted By News On February 20, 2013 - 10:31pm
Low-pitched song indicates fairy-wren size

"In birds in particular, there has been no evidence that the pitch of songs indicated the size of the singer until now."

The study involved measuring the leg length (a good indicator of overall body size) of 45 adult male purple-crowned fairy-wrens. It found there was a correlation between the lowest song pitches and male size.

"We found the bigger males sang certain song types at a lower pitch than smaller males," she said.

Purple-crowned fairy-wrens are creek-dwelling birds from northern Australia and, like their close relatives the blue wrens, males sing trill songs after the calls of certain predators, a context that seems to attract the attention of females.

Males have a repertoire of trill song variants, and it is the low-pitched variants that indicate the size of the singer.

Male purple-crowned fairy-wrens sing trill songs in response to predator calls. They seem to take advantage of the attention attracted by predator calls, and sing their advertising songs when females are paying most attention.

(Photo Credit: Michelle L Hall)

Dr Hall showed that it may be the complexity of birdsong that has obscured the relationship between body size and song frequency in the past.

"Birds can have large repertoires of song types spanning a wide frequency range, and some birds even shift the pitch of their songs down in aggressive contexts," she said.

"Focusing on the lowest pitches that males were able to sing was the key to finding the correlation with body size."

Male and female purple-crowned fairy-wrens live in dense vegetation along the creeks and rivers of the Kimberley and Top End in Australia. Each bird in the study had a unique combination of colored leg bands that allowed researchers to recognize it individually in the wild.

(Photo Credit: Michelle L Hall)

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <cite><p><br><i><b><center><ul><li><div><html5:figure><html5:figcaption>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

More information about formatting options

CAPTCHA
Sorry, we know you're not a spambot, but they're out there