Do Male House Wrens (Troglodytes aedon) Vary Their Singing Among Various Reproductive Stages?

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The Ohio State University

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The vocalizations of male songbirds can function in attracting mates and in defending territory. If song were used for attracting a mate, song output should decline following pairing. If song were used primarily for territory defense, song output should be constant throughout reproduction, because territories are maintained throughout multiple reproductive attempts within one breeding season. If song were used for communicating an ’all clear‘ signal, song output would be highest during incubation, when females are spending the most time on the nest. The purpose of this study was to determine whether the song of male House Wrens (Troglodytes aedon) changes throughout the reproductive cycle. Male House Wren song was recorded by attaching a microphone to the nesting box during four different stages of reproduction (nest-building, laying, incubation, and nestling feeding). The vocalizations were analyzed for song rate (# songs/minute), duration (length of each song), and frequency. Song rate was greatest during the pre-laying stage. Song length was lowest during nestling stage. Results indicate that song may be used primarily for finding mates, and not territory defense or as an ‘all clear’ signal. However, I may not be detecting song used during territorial defense, as our microphone was stationary and located on the nesting box. Future studies should follow individual males to determine whether males also sing away from the nest box, or shift the location of singing during the breeding season.


Ohio State Lima Undergraduate Research Award - First Place


Troglodytes aedon, Reproductive Stages, Vocalization, House Wren