Songbird mates change their call structure and intra-pair communication at the nest in response to environmental noise

Avelyne S. Villain 1, 2 Marie S. A. Fernandez 3, 1, 4 Colette Bouchut 1, 2 Hédi Soula 4 Clémentine Vignal 2, 1
4 BEAGLE - Artificial Evolution and Computational Biology
LBBE - Laboratoire de Biométrie et Biologie Evolutive - UMR 5558, Inria Grenoble - Rhône-Alpes, LIRIS - Laboratoire d'InfoRmatique en Image et Systèmes d'information
Abstract : The coordination of behaviours between mates is a central aspect of the biology of the monogamous pair bonding in birds. This coordination may rely on intrapair acoustic communication, which is surprisingly poorly understood. Here we examined the impact of an increased level of background noise on intrapair acoustic communication at the nest in the zebra finch, Taeniopygia guttata. We monitored how partners adapted their acoustic interactions in response to a playback of wind noise inside the nestbox during incubation. Both zebra finch parents incubate and use coordinated call duets when they meet at the nest. The incubating parent can vocalize to its partner either outside the nestbox (sentinel duets) or inside the nestbox (relief and visit duets), depending on the context of the meeting. Pairs use these duets to communicate on predation threats (sentinel duets), incubation duties (relief) and other nesting activities (visit duets). Each of these duets probably represents a critical component of pair coordination. In response to the noise playback, partners called less and more rapidly during visit and relief duets. Female and male calls were more regularly and precisely alternated during relief duets. Mates increased the number of visit duets and their spatial proximity during sentinel duets. Furthermore, both females and males produced louder, higher-frequency and less broadband calls. Taken together our results show that birds use several strategies to adjust to noise during incubation, underlining the importance of effective intrapair communication for breeding pairs.
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Avelyne S. Villain, Marie S. A. Fernandez, Colette Bouchut, Hédi Soula, Clémentine Vignal. Songbird mates change their call structure and intra-pair communication at the nest in response to environmental noise. Animal Behaviour, Elsevier Masson, 2016, 116, pp.113-129. ⟨10.1016/j.anbehav.2016.03.009⟩. ⟨hal-01404754⟩

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