Vocal communication at the nest between mates in wild zebra finches: A private vocal duet?

Julie E. Elie, Mylène M. Mariette, Hédi A. Soula, Simon C. Griffith, Nicolas Mathevon, Clémentine Vignal*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    91 Citations (Scopus)


    Bird vocal duets are joint displays where two individuals, generally a mated pair, produce temporally coordinated vocalizations. Duets may contribute to pair bond maintenance, mate guarding or collaborative defence of resources. The degree of coordination between mates and the variety of vocalizations, however, vary considerably. Although only 3-4.3% of bird species have been reported to duet, this may be because studies have generally focused on conspicuous duets, and more private forms of duet might have been overlooked. We investigated private vocal communication between mates in wild zebra finches, Taeniopygia guttata, a gregarious Australian songbird that forms life-long pair bonds. The partners are inseparable unless nest building, incubating or brooding. Using microphones inside nestboxes, we monitored interactive communication between partners at the nest and its variation during different stages of breeding. After periods of separation, partners performed coordinated mutual vocal displays involving specific soft vocal elements that fulfilled all the criteria used to define duets. In addition, using playback experiments, we obtained preliminary results suggesting that these soft calls could allow mate recognition. Thus, we propose that mutual displays at the nest in zebra finches represent private vocal duets and may function to mediate pair bond maintenance.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)597-605
    Number of pages9
    JournalAnimal Behaviour
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2010


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