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Interspecific territoriality is frequently reported between closely related species; however, few studies have demonstrated interspecific territoriality between distantly related species living in sympatry. We conducted playback experiments to investigate territorial behaviour in male and female White-bellied Wrens (Uropsila leucogastra) in response to simulated conspecific and heterospecific intruders during the breeding and non-breeding seasons. We explored whether heterospecific songs of the Happy Wren (Pheugopedius felix), a distantly related species and ecological competitor, elicited antagonistic responses from focal White-bellied Wrens, and whether such responses differed between the sexes. We also examined whether male and female responses to conspecific and heterospecific rivals varied with season. We found that male White-bellied Wrens always responded to conspecific song, and responded significantly more to heterospecific song compared to a control stimulus (Tropical Parula, Setophaga pitiayumi). In contrast, although female White-bellied Wrens responded strongly to conspecific song, their response to heterospecific song did not differ significantly from the control stimulus. The proportion of males that responded to heterospecific songs and the proportion of females that responded to conspecific songs varied seasonally, showing significantly lower responses during the breeding season. The intense responses of male White-bellied Wrens to playback of heterospecific songs suggest that they recognise ecological competitors based on their vocal signals. Furthermore, the decrease in agonistic interactions during the breeding season is in line with the hypothesis that aggressive behaviour may be detrimental to reproductive and parental activity, and the hypothesis that heterospecific animals pose less of a threat during the breeding season. © 2017 Blackwell Verlag GmbH



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