Contrasts in the Songs of Two Sympatric Chaffinch Species

In: Behaviour
P.J. Sellar (Department of Zoology and Marine Biology, University of St. Andrews, Fife, U.K.

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P.J.B. Slater (Department of Zoology and Marine Biology, University of St. Andrews, Fife, U.K.

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Recordings have been made of 13 blue chaffinches Fringilla teydea and of 19 Canary islands chaffinches F. coelebs tintillon at various different sites on Tenerife. These are compared with chaffinch songs from elsewhere, where the blue chaffinch does not occur, as well as with each other. In both species on Tenerife, the final elements in the song are often repeated, and hybrid songs can occur on the transition from a bout of one song type to a bout of another. Neither of these features is typical of chaffinches in Britain: they may have arisen in their common ancestor or be due to convergence. In many other respects the two species have diverged so that they differ from chaffinches in Britain and Europe in opposite ways. The blue chaffinch typically has only a few brief elements of only one or two types in the trill. These are separated by long gaps and there is a long, stereotyped and very characteristic flourish. Individuals have a small repertoire of 1-3 song types. In the Canary islands chaffinch the song has very long elements and the flourish is not clearly separated from the rest of the song. Some birds have 7 song types, more than any recorded elsewhere; in others sequencing is variable so that the songs cannot be easily split into types. These results suggest divergence in sympatry, but data are not yet sufficient to decide whether the divergence is greater were territories of the two species overlap than it is elsewhere. An alternative explanation, that the differences have arisen through differences in habitat between the two species, is less likely.

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