A quantitative description of vocalizations and vocal behaviour of the Rusty-crowned Ground-sparrow (Melozone kieneri)

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Ornitologia Neotropical





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Many species of sparrows (Emberizidae) in the temperate zone provide model systems for understanding bird song and singing behaviour. In contrast, the vocal repertoire and vocal behaviour for most tropical sparrows is poorly understood, in spite of their impressive biodiversity. We present here the first detailed quantitative description of vocal repertoires and vocal behaviour of the Rusty-crowned Ground-sparrow (Melozone kieneri), an endemic Mexican sparrow. We provide information on the effect of territory spacing on song repertoire-use and details of the diel pattern of variation in vocal output, using focal, autonomous, and opportunistic recordings of birds in El Tuito, Jalisco, Mexico. Our results demonstrate that Rusty-crowned Ground-sparrows produce three distinct categories of vocalizations - calls, solo songs, and duets - as in other Melozone ground-sparrows. We found that solo songs and duets in this species showed an acoustic structure intermediate to other northern and southern Melozone groundsparrows. Patterns of repertoire-use in male solo songs were highly similar between males holding nearby territories, suggesting that song learning may occur after territory establishment. The diel pattern for output of calls and solo songs showed a pronounced peak early in the morning, indicative of dawnchorus singing behaviour. This study provides the first quantitative investigation of Rusty-crowned Ground-sparrow vocalizations, providing important descriptive information on this little-studied Neotropical Melozone species. © 2014 The Neotropical Ornithological Society.