Kelley Langhans, Biology

Can the competitive context unmask differences in song traits in male dark-eyed juncos (Junco hyemalis)?

Animal communication is the science of decoding the signals animals send to each other. In birds, much research has been devoted to finding out what song traits can tell us about the singers. I am interested in whether certain social contexts can reveal variation in song traits between birds that might not be audible normally. I recorded male dark-eyed juncos in two different conditions: 1. Responding to a junco song recording and 2. Singing spontaneously. Surprisingly, I found no differences in song traits between the two contexts, and differences between birds were not revealed in the competitive context. These results suggest either that playback doesn’t represent a competitive social context, or that differences in song might only be detectable in traits I didn’t measure.