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An overview and comparative analysis of singing on the nest in North American birds

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Bird song is used to defend territories and attract mates and tends to make the singer conspicuous. Singing on the nest (SOTN) has been mentioned since 1904 but has remained largely unexplored. This behavior occurs in 10.1% of breeding birds of North America. Factors that predict the likelihood of SOTN for any species include colonial nesting, incubation sharing and feeding, and taxonomic family. If SOTN is as conspicuous as other forms of singing, this behavior may incur significant costs, such as increased nest predation and parasitism. Data collected from the literature regarding nest vocalizations of adult birds (calls and songs) showed those costs were not significantly different between vocalizing and silent birds. There was greater variance in the rates of nest predation and parasitism for vocalizing birds, which may suggest greater risk. The function(s) of SOTN are not well understood and are mostly untested. Several hypotheses are presented to explain this behavior. This is the first attempt to examine this behavior in any depth and demonstrates the need for further research to explore its function(s) and consequences.

Le chant des oiseaux sert à défendre les territoires et à attirer les partenaires, mais il met le chanteur en évidence. Le chant au nid est connu depuis 1904, mais reste en grande partie inexploré. Ce comportement s’observe chez 10,1 % des oiseaux nicheurs en Amérique du Nord. Les variables qui expliquent la probabilité du chant au nid chez une espèce incluent la nidification en colonie, le partage de l’incubation et l’alimentation, ainsi que la famille taxonomique. Si le chant au nid est aussi frappant que les autres formes de chant, ce comportement peut entraîner des coûts significatifs, tels qu’un accroissement de la prédation et du parasitisme au nid. Des données recueillies dans la littérature sur les vocalisations au nid des oiseaux adultes (appels et chants) indiquent que les coûts ne sont pas significativement différents entre les oiseaux chanteurs et les silencieux. Il existe une plus grande variance des taux de prédation et de parasitisme chez les oiseaux qui chantent, ce qui peut indiquer un risque plus élevé. On ne comprend pas bien la ou les fonctions du chant au nid et le phénomène reste en grande partie inéprouvé. Nous présentons plusieurs hypothèses pour expliquer ce comportement. La nôtre est la première tentative pour examiner ce comportement avec un certain détail; il y a de toute évidence un besoin de recherches ultérieures pour en explorer les fonctions et les conséquences.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2008-10-01

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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