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CCE - Center of Cognitive Ethology / CKE - Centrum kognitivní etologie
Faculty of Science, University of South Bohemia,
Branišovská 31, 370 05, České Budějovice, Czech Republic (map).
Interactions between males are
important part of everyday life in birds. Correct recognition and assessment of
the rival is a key step in the interaction. Wrong assessment of the rival and
consequently wrong decision about a way of proceeding in the interaction (escalation,
retreat) can lead to significant energy loss, loss of territory or even injuries
or dead. Recognition based on acoustic signals has a great advantage – males do
not need even to show up to their rivals and put themselves in a potential risk.
We focus on acoustic signals in our studies of rival recognition and assessment.
Neighbouring males are probably
the most often encountered rivals. Ability to discriminate neighbours from
strangers is beneficial to males as they need to focus mainly on deterring
stranger males. Neighbours are generally considered to be “dear enemies” who
respect established rules. The fact that male songbirds can recognize their
neighbours by song is widely accepted. Which parameters code individuality is
not clear, however, and many song parameters such as spectral parameters,
temporal parameters, specific elements, etc. were proposed but scarcely tested
as individuality carriers.
Males can also benefit from
correct assessment of competition qualities like size, endurance, etc. or
motivation of their rivals. For instance, frequency of the acoustic signals
correlates with body size and can be therefore used to assess rival size in many
animal species. As bigger males usually win in physical confrontation it is
better to stay away from the individuals with low-pitched voices. We look at how
competition qualities and motivation might be coded in songs of songbird males
and whether they can extract this information during contests.