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Female Songbirds

February 24, 2016

Female house wrens sing to defend their nest sites from intruders.


Female house wren by Virginia Heinen

One of the female house wrens in the study. (Virginia Heinen)


Why female songbirds sing. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Male songbirds sing more than females do, and most research has focused on how their songs help them maintain their territories and attract mates. But females of some species, like the house wren, also sing.

(female house wren song)

CARA KRIEG (Michigan State University):

If you go into the field expecting to see patterns that you see in males, it can be really easy to miss these rich interactions that are going on between females, too.


That’s Michigan State University behavioral ecologist Cara Krieg. She and colleague Thomas Getty report in Animal Behaviour that female wrens sing the most during the egg-laying stage of the spring, perhaps to ward off rival females attempting hostile takeovers of their nests. And it seems to work: females that sang the most in response to playback of recorded wren song suffered the fewest egg losses. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.