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Repertoire composition and singing behaviour in two eastern populations of hermit thrush (Catharus guttatus)

Sean P. Roach, Lynn Johnson and Leslie S. Phillmore (2012). Repertoire composition and singing behaviour in two eastern populations of hermit thrush (Catharus guttatus). Bioacoustics, Volume 21 (3): 239 -252



Although it is highly recognisable, relatively little is known about the repertoire composition and singing behaviour of the Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus). To address this, we recorded spontaneously singing males in two eastern populations (Halifax, NS (n = 11) and Hancock County, ME (n = 7)) and analysed the recordings with respect to repertoire size, basic song type characteristics and song syntax. Males had song type repertoires of 7–12 song types, and no song type sharing between individuals was observed within or between populations. While frequency-related structural characteristics of the song types were the same between the populations, song type duration (especially that of the introductory note) differed significantly. The song types within each repertoire could be categorised into high and low song types based on introductory note frequency, and these song type categories also differed with respect to the amount and distribution of spectral energy. In both populations, males sang with immediate variety, never repeating the same song type consecutively, and preferentially used some song-type to song-type transitions more than others. In addition, we found correlational evidence of changes in singing behaviour (e.g., the relative use of low versus high song types) over the course of the breeding season. We discuss these findings in the context of other songbird research as well as their implications for future work examining how Hermit Thrush males utilise their songs in defending territories and attracting mates.


birdsong, repertoire size, geographical variation, song syntax