Vocal behaviour of Barred Antshrikes, a Neotropical duetting suboscine bird

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Journal of Ornithology





First Page


Last Page



Despite the high biodiversity that characterizes the tropics, we know little about the behaviour of most tropical birds. Antbirds (Thamnophilidae) are a biodiverse family of more than 200 species found throughout Central and South America, yet their ecology and behaviour are poorly known. In this study, we provide the first detailed description of the vocalizations and vocal behaviour of Barred Antshrikes (Thamnophilus doliatus), a widespread Neotropical suboscine passerine. We studied 38 territorial pairs in a population in Costa Rica from 2008 to 2010, using field recordings and observations to quantify their vocalizations and vocal behaviour. Males and females produced similar songs consisting of rapidly repeated chuckling notes. Several aspects of their songs distinguish the sexes: male songs were longer in duration, contained more syllables, and were lower in pitch. Males had a higher song output than females, but within song bouts males and females sang at similar rates. Barred Antshrike song output varied daily, with the highest song output occurring at dawn. Song output also varied seasonally, with increased song output occurring during the breeding period. Males and females combined songs to create duets, overlapping the terminal portion of their mate's song. Most duets were created by females responding to male songs (84 %), and the rest by males responding to female songs. The timing of duet responsiveness varied between the sexes; males responded more quickly to their partner's song (1. 6 s) than females (2. 0 s). This detailed account of the vocalizations and vocal behaviour of a population of Barred Antshrikes creates a foundation for future comparative studies of antbirds. Our study highlights similarities and differences in the behavioural patterns of tropical birds and contributes to our understanding of the function of vocal duets and the vocal behaviour of antbirds. © 2012 Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V.