Despite their large vocal repertoires and otherwise highly versatile singing style, male mockingbirds (Mimus spp.) sometimes sing in a highly repetitive fashion. We conducted a playback experiment to determine the possible signal value of different syllable-presentation patterns during simulated male intrusions in the Tropical Mockingbird (Mimus gilvus), testing the hypothesis that more repetitive singing represents a stronger threat and generates a stronger aggressive response. Responses were measured in terms of approach and singing behavior and were analyzed using McGregor’s (1992) multivariate method. We also introduce the use of survival analysis for analyzing response variables for which subjects do not perform the behavior in question in at least one of the replicates (known as “right-censored variables” in the statistical literature). As predicted by theory, experimental subjects responded more aggressively to songs composed of a single note than to variable ones. However, versatility at the between-song level had an opposite effect: high song-switching rates generated stronger responses than low ones. Given the lack of a statistical interaction between within-song versatility and switching rate, we conclude that these two parameters may serve independent purposes and possibly transmit different information. We discuss the possibility that the signal value of variation in vocal versatility lies in the mediation of territorial conflicts, the attraction of female partners, the mediation of conflicts over access to reproductive females, or some combination of these functions.
Respuestas de Machos de Mimus gilvus a Variación en Versatilidad Vocal Dentro- y Entre-cantos