Status signaling and communication networks in chickadees: Complex communication with a simple song

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Ecol. and Behav. of Chickadees and Titmice: An Integr. Approach


Black-capped chickadees produce a large variety of calls, including the versatile gargle call and the namesake chick-a-dee call. In contrast to these complex calls, the song of black-capped chickadees demonstrates a remarkable simplicity. Although the black-capped chickadee song is simple, interestingly young males inherit songs culturally, and nestlings raised in absence of adult tutors do not develop normal adult song. This chapter explores the ways in which male black-capped chickadees use this simple, learned song to achieve remarkably complex forms of communication. After a brief description of the ways in which male chickadees vary their songs over time, two singing contexts - diurnal countersinging interactions and the dawn chorus - are evaluated. Chickadee singing behaviour is then examined within the new communication network model, and recent research on chickadees which has generated exciting insights into the ecology and evolution of sexual signaling in songbirds is discussed. © Oxford University Press, 2007. All rights reserved.