interested in functions and the acquisition of song in birds.
In most northern temperate zone species only male birds sing
and females don’t which is probably associated with
the specific conditions that those species have to face (e.g.
seasonality, migration). However, song is not restricted to
males and in particular in tropical species singing in females
is rather common. Therefore, my research includes both temperate
and tropical model species.
Vocal learning is restricted to humans, certain marine mammals,
bats and three taxa of birds, amongst them the oscine songbirds.
In nightingales (Luscinia megarhynchos), a temperate songbird,
I investigated the song learning process in a species with
an extraordinary large vocal repertoire. In blue capped cordon
bleus (Uraeginthus cyanocephalus) – a tropical estrildid
relative of the well-studied zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata)
– both males and females sing. In this species, I studied
sex-specific differences in the song learning and it’s
The dual function of birdsong, mate attraction and territorial
defence, has been mainly studied in species with typical sex
roles. Typically, females make a larger parental investment,
are the limiting sex and can effort choosing their mate, whereas
males are competitive and have evolved secondary sexual signals,
such as song. It follows that it should be generally the competing
sex that uses secondary sexual signals to attract mates and
to deter rivals. To test this, I investigated the territorial
function of female song in a bird species with reversed sex-roles,
the African black coucal (Centropus grillii).
Current Projects &
individual signatures in the acoustic network of a territorial
songbird: the skylark Alauda arvensis. Project in collaboration
with Thierry Aubin, Fanny Rybak (Bioacoustics team) and
Manfred Gahr (Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Germany)