Sex-specific timing of mate searching and territory prospecting in the nightingale: Nocturnal life of females

Tobias Roth*, Philipp Sprau, Rouven Schmidt, Marc Naguib, Valentin Amrhein

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


Formal models have shown that diel variation in female mate searching is likely to have profound influence on daily signalling routines of males. In studies on acoustic communication, the temporal patterns of the receivers' signal evaluation should thus be taken into account when investigating the functions of signalling. In bird species in which diel patterns of signalling differ between males singing to defend a territory or to attract a mate, the diel patterns of mate and territory prospecting are suggested to depend on the sex of the prospector. We simulated newly arriving female nightingales (Luscinia megarhynchos) by translocating radio-tagged females to our study site. The mate-searching females prospected the area mostly at night, visiting several singing males. The timing of female prospecting corresponded to the period of the night when the singing activity of unpaired males was higher than that of paired males. In contrast to females, territory searching males have been shown to prospect territories almost exclusively during the dawn chorus. At dawn, both paired and unpaired males sang at high rates, suggesting that in contrast to nocturnal singing, dawn singing is important to announce territory occupancy to prospecting males. In the nightingale, the sex-specific timing of prospecting corresponded to the differential signalling routines of paired and unpaired males. The temporal patterns in the behaviour of signallers and receivers thus appear to be mutually adapted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2045-2050
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1664
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jun 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Dawn chorus
  • Nocturnal song
  • Signalling routines
  • Timing of prospecting

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