Responses to playback of different subspecies songs in the Reed Bunting (Emberiza s. schoeniclus)

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Populations of Reed Buntings Emberiza schoeniclus in the western Palearctic are classified in two major subspecies groups according to morphology: northern migratory schoeniclus and Mediterranean resident intermedia. Songs of the two groups differ mainly in complexity and syllable structure, with intermedia songs being more complex. We explored the possibilities of song as a subspecies isolating mechanism by testing if male schoeniclus Reed Buntings reacted differently to field playbacks of songs from their own subspecies group, from the foreign subspecies group and from a control species, the Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella. We tested 30 different males, each with a different song belonging to one of the three categories: own, foreign and Yellowhammer. Unlike songs of the two subspecies groups, Yellowhammer song elicited no response. Differences between reactions to own and foreign subspecies group songs were not significant, even though differences in response type (singing vs approaching) suggested some degree of uncertainty in classification of foreign song. We conclude from these results that the subspecies may be only in the first stages of the isolation process.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Avian Biology
Issue number31
Pages (from-to)96-101
Publication statusPublished - 2000

ID: 184504