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Proc Biol Sci. 2005 Feb 22;272(1561):383-8.

Playback of colony sound alters the breeding schedule and clutch size in zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata) colonies.

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Department of Biology, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario K7L 3N6, Canada.


The hypothesis that social stimulation, derived from the presence and activities of conspecifics, can hasten and synchronize breeding in colonies of birds was tested. A modified playback/recorder system was used to continuously exaggerate the amount of colony sound available to zebra finches throughout their courtship period. Males that heard 'sound supplements' generated from their own colony sang more than males in control colonies that did not receive playback; males that heard samples from a different colony, sang at an intermediate level. Females that were exposed to the vocalizations of their mate and playback from a colony other than their own, laid eggs earlier and more synchronously than females in control colonies. Females that heard the vocalizations of their mate along with playback samples generated from their own colony, laid eggs more synchronously but not earlier than control females. Both acoustic treatments caused females to lay larger clutches. Social stimulation influences the breeding schedule and clutch size in zebra finch colonies. If there are advantages associated with these effects, social stimulation may contribute to the maintenance of colonial breeding systems.

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