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Song repertoires and repertoire sharing in a local group of blackbirds

Rasmussen, R. & Dabelsteen, T. (2002). Song repertoires and repertoire sharing in a local group of blackbirds. Bioacoustics, Volume 13 (1): 63 -76



The song repertoires of a local group of blackbird Turdus merula males were determined and quantified with respect to individuality and sharing between neighbours. We focused on the long-ranging, introductory whistle part of the song and its motifs of fixed sequences of sounds. These motifs, whether they are used to start the song or placed centrally in the song, constitute the largest units of song that are repeated in the same way every time they are sung. Blackbird motifs therefore are equivalents of song types in other species. The result shows that one needs to analyse more than 200 songs to estimate a male's repertoire, which averaged 44 different motifs. Relative to other species, this is a medium to large song repertoire. The size of the repertoire of start motifs (on average 32) varied only a little between the individuals, whereas that of central motifs (on average 12) varied rather much between the same individuals, suggesting that they form a potential cue for assess- ment of male quality. The males within the neighbourhood showed a high degree of start motif sharing, which, together with the relatively large repertoires, could be constraining neighbour recognition. However, in most males the possession of a few individually distinctive and frequently repeated motifs could counter such an effect.


blackbird, song repertoire, repertoire sharing, individuality, neighbour recognition.