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R Soc Open Sci. 2015 Jan 28;2(1):140196. doi: 10.1098/rsos.140196. eCollection 2015 Jan.

Female signalling to male song in the domestic canary, Serinus canaria.

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Laboratoire Ethologie Cognition Développement, EA 3456 , Université Paris Ouest - Nanterre La Défense, 200 Avenue de la République , Nanterre 92000, France.
Behavioural Ecology Group, Department of Animal Sciences , Wageningen University , Wageningen, The Netherlands.


Most studies on sexual selection focus on male characteristics such as male song in songbirds. Yet female vocalizations in songbirds are growing in interest among behavioural and evolutionary biologists because these vocalizations can reveal the female's preferences for male traits and may affect male display. This study was designed to test whether male song performance influences the different female signals in the domestic canary (Serinus canaria). Female canaries were exposed to three types of song performance, differing in the repetition rate of sexy syllables. This experiment demonstrates that female birds are engaged in multimodal communication during sexual interaction. The results support the copulation solicitation hypothesis for female-specific trills: these trills were positively correlated and had a similar pattern to the copulation solicitation displays; responses were higher to the songs with higher performance and responses decreased with the repetition of the stimulation. Also, we observed a sensitization effect with the repetition of the song of the highest performance for the simple calls. Simple trills and other calls were more frequent during the broadcast of canary songs compared with the heterospecific control songs. The differential use of female signals in response to different song performance reveals a highly differentiated female signalling system which is discussed in light of the role of female traits to understand sexual selection in a broader perspective.


copulation solicitation; female-specific signals; male–female vocal interaction; sexual selection; songbird

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