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Territorial response predictability in radio-tagged great tits Parus major

Citation

Naguib, Marc (2022), Territorial response predictability in radio-tagged great tits Parus major, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.h70rxwdkw

Abstract

Territorial animals often use signals to advertise territorial occupancy within their larger home ranges. Songbirds are among the best-studied territorial signaling taxa, and when competitors start singing during a territorial intrusion, residents usually show elevated spatial and vocal responses. These responses could be used by intruders and distant eavesdroppers to predict future responses or to compare responses across competitors. Yet, the extent to which responses of a resident to a territorial intrusion predict its future responses and its overall spatial behavior (home range) within a neighborhood is less well understood. We used wild great tits (Parus major) as a model species in repeated song playback trials, simulating territorial intrusions combined with radio-tracking before and during playback trials. The time spent close to the loudspeaker in response to an initial simulated intrusion predicted the same response variable during a second simulated intrusion on the next day, whereas singing activity during the first simulated intrusion did not predict singing during the second simulated intrusion. We also show that more explorative males (as determined by a novel environment test) and males with smaller home ranges sang more and spent more time near the loudspeaker in response to both simulated intrusions. Thus, by probing residents, intruders can obtain reliable information about subsequent response probabilities, while eavesdroppers from a distance, who can use auditory information only, would not receive sufficient predictive information. Our findings also suggest that males with larger home ranges are more tolerant towards intruders, which could reflect a trade-off between tendencies to respond strongly and to range widely. The lack of predictability of singing activity with regard to responses to future intrusions might explain why territorial animals continuously exchange vocal signals and regularly foray into neighboring territories, as a way to obtain regular information updates.

Methods

See manuscript for details.