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    Soft song provokes stronger aggressive responses than broadcast song in the Plain Laughingthrush (Pterorhinus davidi)

    Liu, Pengfei, Lloyd, Huw, Lou, Yingqiang and Sun, Yuehua (2023) Soft song provokes stronger aggressive responses than broadcast song in the Plain Laughingthrush (Pterorhinus davidi). IBIS: The International Journal of Avian Science, 165 (2). pp. 561-570. ISSN 0019-1019

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    Abstract

    Many bird species produce low-amplitude acoustic signals, known as soft songs, which are widely believed to function primarily in aggressive interactions. However, there are surprisingly few experimental studies that have examined whether soft songs are reliable signalling strategies for escalating aggressive interactions. Here, we investigate the functions of soft song in a colour-marked population of the Plain Laughingthrush Pterorhinus davidi, using playback experiments combined with specimen-based simulated territory intrusions. We found that playback of male soft song provoked quicker response and stronger aggressive intent by territorial pairs compared with playback of male broadcast song. Responses by territorial pairs to male soft song playback were significantly stronger compared with responses to broadcast song playback, with a greater number of flights over the speaker, more time spent within 1 m of the speaker and closer approaches to the speaker. Furthermore, closer approach with the production of soft song by focal males was the best predictor of aggressive intent in combined playback and specimen intrusion experiments. Our results suggest that male soft song is used as an aggressive signal in the Plain Laughingthrush, and represents the first evidence of such for a monogamous temperate duetting species.

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