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Behavioural Ecology and Song Characteristics: a Long-term Field Study on a Berlin Population of Individually Banded Nightingales

Henrike Hultsch, Sarah Kiefer, Silke Kipper, Philipp Sprau, Constance Scharff, Christina Sommer, group members, in co-operation with Roger Mundry (MPI f. Evol. Anthropology, Leipzig)

In the year 2000 we started a long-term field study on the behavioural ecology of nightingales (Luscinia megarhynchos) in the Treptower Park, a municipal park in Berlin, Germany. In subsequent years we documented dates of arrival from migration, singing activity, singing interactions, dynamics of territory occupancy, body measures and/or breeding success and recorded nocturnal singing of territorial males, which were color-legbanded and are thus individually recognizable. For several bird species it has been shown that individual song characteristics can change with age, season, body condition, motivation or social context (reviewed in 1). The investigation of song behaviour showed large population differences in repertoire size or order of song delivery between successive years. However, the song characteristics of individual males were persistent over years (2). In addition, we were able to show that males with larger repertoires are bigger and arrived earlier at the breeding site. Thus, the repertoire of a male might be correlated with his quality (3). At present we are cataloguing the species’ collective song repertoire and investigate song recognition and song type use.


(1) Catchpole, C. K., Slater, P. J. B. 1995: Birdsong – biological themes and variations. Cambridge University Press, London. (2) Kipper, S.; Mundry, R.; Hultsch, H.; Todt, D. 2004: Long-term persistence of song performance rules in nightingales (Luscinia megarhynchos): A longitudinal field study on repertoire size and composition. Behaviour 141: 371-390. (3) Kipper, S.; Mundry, R.; Sommer, C.; Hultsch, H.; Todt, D. 2006: Song repertoire size is correlated with body measures and arrival date in common nightingales, Luscinia megarhynchos. Animal Behaviour 71, 211-217.