The evolution of bird song: comparative analyses

A. F. Read, D. M. Weary

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

136 Scopus citations


Several ecological and behavioural factors are correlated with interspecific differences in the complexity and temporal arrangement of passerine songs. For example, song repertoires are larger in species where males provide more parental care; syllable repertoire sizes are greater in polygynous species; migrants have larger song and syllable repertoires; and more vocalization during a song bout is associated with higher fecundities and lower metabolic rates. These associations often differ at different taxonomic levels, suggesting that the factors causing divergence in song characters within genera are different from those responsible for divergence among more distantly related taxa. In general, correlates of greater song complexity can be interpreted as those factors likely to produce more intense inter- or intra-sexual selection (polygyny, migration, paternal care). Measures of song output are correlated with factors likely to be associated with species differences in energetic requirements (metabolic rate) or reproductive effort (fecundity). The ecological and behavioural correlates of within-song complexity differ from those of between-song complexity, suggesting that they are not alternative solutions to the same selective pressures. -Authors

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)165-187
Number of pages23
JournalPhilosophical Transactions - Royal Society of London, B
Issue number1284
StatePublished - Jan 1 1992

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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