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Songbirds never forget: long-lasting behavioural change triggered by a single playback event

In: Behaviour
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  • 1 aGrupo Ecología y Evolución de Vertebrados, Instituto de Biología, Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales, Universidad de Antioquia UdeA, Calle 70 No. 52-21, Medellin, Colombia
  • | 2 bUniversity of Antwerp, Ethology Group, Campus Drie Eiken, Universiteitsplein 1, B-2610 Wilrijk, Belgium
  • | 3 cInstitute for Education and Information Sciences, Research Unit Didactica, University of Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium
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Many behavioural studies rely on playback experiments. While it is known that songbirds decrease behavioural responses after short-term repeated stimulation, long-term behavioural changes due to playbacks are unknown. We studied the response to playbacks in a free-living songbird in the long-term, while also studying the repeatability of the behaviour. Locomotor behaviour (a proxy of aggressiveness) decreased one year after first exposure to a single playback. Song response, however, remained consistent, suggesting that these two behaviours may provide different information. Locomotor behaviour was less repeatable than the song response to playback, the latter showing significant between-years repeatability. To the best of our knowledge, our study is the first to report long-term decrease in response to playbacks in a songbird, and that some aspects of the response to playback are repeatable. Similar studies in other species or populations of the great tit are important, to examine the generality of our findings.

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