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No evidence for a role of trills in male response to territorial intrusion in a complex singer, the Thrush Nightingale

Cite this dataset

Souriau, Abel; Reifová, Radka; Petrusek, Adam; Petrusková, Tereza (2021). No evidence for a role of trills in male response to territorial intrusion in a complex singer, the Thrush Nightingale [Dataset]. Dryad.


Among the broad diversity of songbird vocalisations, song can serve a wide range of different functions depending on the species and context. In many species, aggressive motivation has often been linked with the use of fast repeated series of elements typically referred to as trills. However, only a few studies explored the role of this specific component in species with a large repertoire and high song complexity. Here, we investigate the potential role of trills in the territorial vocal response of males Thrush Nightingale (Luscinia luscinia), a species with complex songs characterised by the frequent use and diversity of their trills. We performed playback experiments simulating territorial intrusion to test if trills signal aggressive motivation in this species. If so, we expected tested males to respond by changing their trill rate or frequency of trill use in songs, and/or using different trill types than before the stimulation. Contrary to our expectation, males did not modify their trill rate or differed in trill type use before, during or after playback. There was a tendency for a decrease in trill duration and the number of elements in the trills during the playback stimulation, reflecting to some extent the overall use of shorter songs by males during that stage of the experiment. Altogether, our study does not support the role of trills as motivation signals for territory defense in Thrush Nightingales, but advocates for more research on their potential roles in signalling other information.


Recordings of songs of Thrush Nightingale were played back to conspecific males, and their vocal response were recorded and analysed. Recordings of both spontaneous and provoked songs were analysed for the trill repertoire as well as trill temporal characteristics.

Usage notes

All experimental recordings used in the analysis have been deposited in the Animal Sound Archive at the Museum for Natural History in Berlin and are available under the CC-BY-SA Licence at the following DOI: 10.7479/b478-jj11.


Czech Science Foundation, Award: 18-14325S