In communication, animals often use complex signals with different traits carrying different information. In the song of some songbirds, both trills and song overlapping signal arousal or the readiness to escalate a contest in male-male interactions, yet they also differ inherently from each other. Song overlapping is restricted to interactions and has a clear directive function as the songs are timed specifically to the songs of a counterpart. Trills, however, can be used without opponents actively singing and do not have such a directional character unless when combined with directed traits. This difference raises the question whether trills can enhance the agonistic function of song overlapping when being used simultaneously. Here, we exposed male nightingales (Luscinia megarhynchos) prior to pairing to overlapping playback treatments differing in the presence or absence of rapid broadband trills. Males responded differently to the two playback treatments suggesting that song overlapping and rapid broadband trills have some synergistic effects. Consequently, the separate or simultaneous use of trills and of song overlapping may allow males to adjust information encoded in their singing on a fine scale. Furthermore, males that remained unpaired throughout the breeding season responded differently to the playbacks than did subsequently paired males, emphasizing the implications of differences in territory defence behaviour on males subsequent pairing success.
Original languageEnglish
Journal publication date2010

ID: 328593