The study was conducted in Western Poland during three breeding seasons (1996-1998). Spontaneous song rate changes and playback experiments were used to determine functions of the song in two closely related, sympatric species: Eurasian Treecreeper and Short-toed Treecreeper. Substantial differences in spontaneous song rate and reaction to playback between the studied treecreepers were found. On average Short-toed Treecreeper had a two times higher song rate and longer song bouts than Eurasian Treecreeper. Both species reacted stronger to the playback during the prebreeding and egg-laying stages than during the incubation/feeding stage. Therefore, the primary function of the song in these sibling species is to deter rival males from gaining access to the territory and fertile females. We found no evidence that the song was directly related to mate attraction or stimulation. When reacting to the playback the response patterns differed between the two species, but the overall experimental song response was similar. Interspecific differences in the singing pattern can be explained by dissimilar territorial behaviour. Short-toed Treecreeper bred in clusters, leading to frequent and more ritualized countersinging between rival males. Eurasian Treecreeper territories were scattered and separated by unoccupied habitat. This probably explains why the males rarely sing spontaneously, but behave more aggressively when rivals intrude.
Oct 2, 2020
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