Sexual selection theory proposes that elaborate male secondary sexual characteristics, including complex song, may increase the attractiveness of males by honestly communicating to females their genetic quality or ability to provide material reproductive resources such as parental care. The Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) is sexually monochromatic, but males sing complex songs during the breeding season while females do not. We tested the hypotheses that song-phrase versatility and rate of song-phrase production are honest indicators of male parental effort. We predicted that both song-phrase versatility and rate of production would be positively correlated with paternal chick feeding rate. Paternal chick feeding rate was not significantly related to song-phrase versatility, but it was positively and significantly correlated with song-phrase production rate. Thus, song-phrase production rate may serve as a more reliable indicator of male parental quality than song versatility in the Gray Catbird.
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Vol. 76 • No. 3