Seasonal patterns of nocturnal singing by ovenbirds and white-throated sparrows

in Behaviour
Restricted Access
Get Access to Full Text
Rent on DeepDyve

Have an Access Token?

Enter your access token to activate and access content online.

Please login and go to your personal user account to enter your access token.


Have Institutional Access?

Access content through your institution. Any other coaching guidance?



Recent research suggests that many diurnal songbirds also sing at night. The functions of nocturnal singing by diurnally active birds are not well understood. We used automated recorders to record nocturnal singing from May through July 2014. We examined how date, temperature, wind, weather, and lunar phase influenced nocturnal vocal behaviour. We found that nocturnal singing by ovenbirds and white-throated sparrows was related to date with clear seasonal patterns that did not mirror the dawn chorus. Nocturnal singing rates declined seasonally, but peaked earlier for white-throated sparrows than for ovenbirds. Both species sang less often on nights with a full moon or precipitation. Ovenbirds also sang fewer songs on cold and windy nights while white-throated sparrows sang less often on cloudy nights. We show that nocturnal song is shaped by environmental factors and shows a seasonal pattern that may be useful for gaining insights into functions of nocturnal song.

Seasonal patterns of nocturnal singing by ovenbirds and white-throated sparrows

in Behaviour



AmrheinV.KornerP. & NaguibM. (2002). Nocturnal and diurnal singing activity in the nightingale: correlations with mating status and breeding cycle. — Anim. Behav. 64: 939-944.

Arroyo-SolísA.CastilloJ.M.FigueroaE.López-SánchezJ.L. & SlabbekoornH. (2013). Experimental evidence for an impact of anthropogenic noise on dawn chorus timing in urban birds. — J. Avian Biol. 44: 288-296.

BarclayR.M.LeonardM.L. & FriesenG. (1985). Nocturnal singing by marsh wrens. — Condor 87: 418-422.

BartschC.WeissM. & KipperS. (2015). Multiple song features are related to paternal effort in common nightingales. — BMC Evol. Biol. 15: 115.

BartschC.HultschH.ScharffC. & KipperS. (2016). What is the whistle all about? A study on whistle songs, related male characteristics, and female song preferences in common nightingales. — J. Ornithol. 157: 49-60.

BatesD.MaechlerM.BolkerB. & WalkerS. (2015). Fitting linear mixed-effects models using lme4. — J. Stati. Softw. 67: 1-48.

BentA.C. (1953). Life histories of North American wood warblers. — U.S. Government Printing OfficeWashington, DC.

BorrorD.J. & GunnW.W. (1965). Variation in white-throated sparrow songs. — Auk 82: 26-47.

BruniA.MennillD.J. & FooteJ.R. (2014). Dawn chorus start time variation in a temperate bird community: relationships with seasonality, weather, and ambient light. — J. Ornithol. 155: 877-890.

CanterburyJ.L. (2007). Songs of the wild: temporal and geographical distinctions in the acoustic properties of the songs of the yellow-breasted chat. — PhD dissertation University of Nebraska Lincoln NE.

Celis-MurilloA.StodolaK.W.PappadopoliB.BurtonJ.M. & WardM.P. (2016a). Seasonal and daily patterns of nocturnal singing in the field sparrow (Spizella pusilla). — J. Ornithol. 157: 853-860.

Celis-MurilloA.BensonT.J.Sosa-LópezJ.R. & WardM.P. (2016b). Nocturnal songs in a diurnal passerine: attracting mates or repelling intruders?Anim. Behav. 118: 105-114.

Celis-MurilloA.SchelskyW.BensonT.J.LouderM.I. & WardM.P. (2017). Patterns, correlates, and paternity consequences of extraterritorial foray behavior in the field sparrow (Spizella pusilla): an automated telemetry approach. — Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 71: 45.

ChapmanF.M. (1907). The warblers of North America. — AppletonNew York, NY.

ClarkeJ.A. (1983). Moonlight’s influence on predator/prey interactions between short-eared owls (Asio flammeus) and deermice (Peromyscus maniculatus). — Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 13: 205-209.

CunninghamR.B. & LindenmayerD.B. (2005). Modeling count data of rare species: some statistical issues. — Ecology 86: 1135-1142.

Da SilvaA.ValcuM. & KempenaersB. (2015). Light pollution alters the phenology of dawn and dusk singing in common European songbirds. — Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. Lond. B: Biol. Sci. 370: 20140126.

DerricksonK.C. (1988). Variation in repertoire presentation in northern mockingbirds. — Condor 90: 592-606.

Ehnes M. & FooteJ.R. (2015). Comparison of autonomous and manual recording methods for discrimination of individually distinctive ovenbird songs. — Bioacoustics 24: 111-121.

Environment Canada [online] (2015). Historical climate data. — Available online at (accessed 23 February 2015).

FallsJ.B. (1969). Function of territorial song in the white-throated sparrow. — In: Bird vocalizations (Hinde R.A. ed.). Cambridge University PressCambridge p. 207-232.

FallsJ.B. & KopachenaJ.G. (2010). White-throated sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis). — In: The birds of North America (RodewaldP. ed.). Cornell Lab of OrnithologyIthaca, NY.

FooteJ.R.FitzsimmonsL.P.MennillD.J. & RatcliffeL.M. (2008). Male chickadees match neighbors interactively at dawn: support for the social dynamics hypothesis. — Behav. Ecol. 19: 1192-1199.

FournierD.A.SkaugJ.J.AnchetaJ.IanelliJ.MagnussonA.MaunderM.NielsenA. & SibertJ. (2012). AD Model Builder: using automatic differentiation for statistical inference of highly parameterized complex nonlinear models. — Optim. Method. Softw. 27: 233-249.

GarsonP.J. & HunterM.L. (1979). Effects of temperature and time of year on the singing behaviour of wrens Troglodytes troglodytes and great tits Parus major. — Ibis 121: 481-487.

GibbsM. (1892). Birds that sing in the night. — Science 20: 313.

HannH.W. (1937). Life history of the oven-bird in southern Michigan. — Wilson Bull. 49: 145-237.

HenwoodK. & FabrickA. (1979). A quantitative analysis of the dawn chorus: temporal selection for communicatory optimization. — Am. Nat. 114: 260-274.

HigginsR.M. (1979). Temperature-related variation in the duration of morning song of the song thrush Turdus ericetorum. — Ibis 121: 333-336.

KelseyM.G. (1989). A comparison of the song and territorial behaviour of a long-distance migrant, the marsh warbler Acrocephalus palustris, in summer and winter. — Ibis 131: 403-414.

KhalingS.KaulR. & SahaG.K. (1998). Surveys of the satyr tragopan Tragopan satyra in the Singhalila National Park, Darjeeling, India using spring call counts. — Bird Conserv. Int. 8: 361-371.

KuncH.P.AmrheinV. & NaguibM. (2005). Seasonal variation in dawn song characteristics in the common nightingale. — Anim. Behav. 70: 1265-1271.

LaV.T. (2012). Diurnal and nocturnal birds vocalize at night: a review. — Condor 114: 245-257.

LaromD.GarstangM.PayneK.RaspetR. & LindequeM. (1997). The influence of surface atmospheric conditions on the range and area reached by animal vocalizations. — J. Exp. Biol. 200: 421-431.

LeinM.R. (1981). Display behavior of ovenbirds (Seiurus aurocapillus) II. Song variation and singing behavior. — Wilson Bull. 93: 21-41.

LewisJ.B. (1893). Birds that sing by moonlight. — Science 22: 95.

LowtherJ.K. & FallsJ.B. (1968). White-throated sparrowin. — U.S. Natl. Mus. Bull. 337: 1364-1392.

MennillD.J. (2014). Variation in the vocal behavior of common loons (Gavia immer): insights from landscape-level recordings. — Waterbirds 37: 26-36.

MougeotF. & BretagnolleV. (2000). Predation risk and moonlight avoidance in nocturnal seabirds. — J. Avian Biol. 31: 376-386.

National Research Council (2014). Sunrise sunset calculator. — Available online at (accessed 1 June 2014).

NowickiS.PetersS. & PodosJ. (1998). Song learning, early nutrition and sexual selection in songbirds. — Am. Zool. 38: 179-190.

PaulN. (2016). What does the ovenbird say? An analysis on intra- and inter-individual variation in Seiurus aurocapilla flight song structure. — Undergraduate thesis Algoma University Sault Ste. Marie ON.

PerraultK.LobertL.M.EhnesM. & FooteJ.R. (2014). Nocturnal singing in a temperate bird community. — J. Ornithol. 155: 1059-1062.

PorneluziP.Van HornM.A. & DonovanT.M. (2011). Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapilla). — In: The birds of North America (RodewaldP. ed.). Cornell Lab of OrnithologyIthaca, NY.

R Core Team (2016). R: a language and environment for statistical computing. — R Foundation for Statistical ComputingVienna.

RothT.SprauP.SchmidtR.NaguibM. & AmrheinV. (2009). Sex-specific timing of mate searching and territory prospecting in the nightingale: nocturnal life of females. — Proc. Roy. Soc. Lond. B: Biol. Sci. 276: 2045-2050.

SchmidtK.A. & BelinskyK.L. (2013). Voices in the dark: predation risk by owls influences dusk singing in a diurnal passerine. — Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 67: 1837-1843.

SmithR.L. (1959). The songs of the grasshopper sparrow. — Wilson Bull. 71: 141-152.

StaicerC.A.SpectorD.A. & HornA.G. (1996). The dawn chorus and other diel patterns of acoustic signaling. — In: Ecology and evolution of acoustic communication in birds (KroodsmaD. & MillerE. eds). Cornell University PressIthaca, NY p. 426-453.

ThomasR.J. (1999). Two tests of a stochastic dynamic programming model of daily singing routines in birds. — Anim. Behav. 57: 277-284.

ThomasR.J. & CuthillI.C. (2002). Body mass regulation and the daily singing routines of European robins. — Anim. Behav. 63: 285-295.

Time and Date AS (2015). Moon phase calculator. — Available online at (accessed 23 February 2015).

TuttleE.M. (1993). Mate choice and stable polymorphism in the white-throated sparrow. — PhD dissertation University at Albany Albany NY.

TuttleH.E. (1919). The night warbler. — Bird Lore 21: 228-229.

WardM.P.AlessiP.M.BensonT.J. & ChiavacciS.J. (2014). The active nightlife of diurnal birds: extraterritorial forays and nocturnal activity patterns. — Anim. Behav. 88: 175-184.

WardS.SpeakmanJ.R. & SlaterP.J. (2003). The energy cost of song in the canary, Serinus canaria. — Anim. Behav. 66: 893-902.

WassermanF.E. (1977). Mate attraction function of song in the white-throated sparrow. — Condor 79: 125-127.

WassermanF.E. & CiglianoJ.A. (1991). Song output and stimulation of the female in white-throated sparrows. — Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 29: 55-59.

YorkJ.E.YoungA.J. & RadfordA.N. (2014). Singing in the moonlight: dawn song performance of a diurnal bird varies with lunar phase. — Biol. Lett. 10: 20130970.

ZuurA.F.IenoE.N.WalkerN.J.SavelievA.A. & SmithG.M. (2009). Mixed effects models and extensions in ecology with R. — SpringerNew York, NY.

ZuurA.F. & IenoE.N. (2016). Beginner’s guide to zero-inflated models with R. — Highland StatisticsNewburgh.


  • View in gallery

    Results of best binomial Generalized Linear Mixed Model for ovenbird (N=31) nocturnal flight song presence/absence.

  • View in gallery

    Hypothesized seasonal pattern of song delivery for competing hypotheses from La (2012).

  • View in gallery

    Results of truncated Poisson Generalized Linear Mixed Model for non-zero values of number of ovenbird (N=31) nocturnal flight songs/night.

  • View in gallery

    Seasonal pattern of ovenbird nocturnal flight songs from 2 May to 29 July. (a) Mean of songs present (0, no songs detected; 1, songs detected for 31 males) and (b) mean number of songs/h male or dates and males (1, songs present).

  • View in gallery

    Mean song rate of ovenbirds for days where song is present in relation to (a) temperature, (b) wind speed, (c) weather and (d) lunar phase.

  • View in gallery

    Results of best binomial Generalized Linear Mixed Model for the presence/absence of nocturnal singing by six male white-throated sparrows.

  • View in gallery

    Seasonal pattern of nocturnal singing by male white-throated sparrows from 2 May to 29 July. (a) Mean of songs present (0, no songs detected; 1, songs detected for six males) and (b) mean number of songs/h for dates and males where songs were present.

Index Card

Content Metrics

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 20 20 20
Full Text Views 15 15 15
PDF Downloads 2 2 2
EPUB Downloads 0 0 0