Vocal interactions in common nightingales (Luscinia megarhynchos): males take it easy after pairing

Hansjoerg P. Kunc*, Valentin Amrhein, Marc Naguib

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


Seasonal patterns of bird song have been studied intensively with a focus on individual males. However, little is known about seasonal patterns of singing during vocal interactions between males. Vocal interactions have been shown to be important in sexual selection as males may signal aspects of motivation or quality. Here, we investigated in nightingales (Luscinia megarhynchos) whether a male's behaviour in vocal interactions at different stages of the breeding season is influenced by its mating status. We examined how males that differ in their subsequent mating success respond to a non-interactive, nocturnal playback presented during the period of mate attraction and subsequently during the egg-laying period. We found that mated males overlapped fewer songs and had a lower song rate during the egg-laying period compared to their responses during the mate-attraction period, whereas unpaired males did not vary in their responses between the two periods. Our results suggest that mating status is a key factor affecting singing behaviour in vocal interactions and that a time-specific singing pattern like song overlapping is used flexibly during vocal interactions. Because song overlapping is thought to be a signal of aggression in male-male vocal interactions, it seems that males vary the level of aggression in vocal interactions according to their mating status and to the stage in the breeding season.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)557-563
Number of pages7
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Bird song
  • Eavesdropping
  • Male-male interactions
  • Nightingale
  • Nocturnal song
  • Sexual selection

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