Washington, July 9 : A collaborative study by experts from the University of Antwerp and at Eotvos University, Budapest suggests that bird song has a prominent and well-established role in sexual selection, and that it displays considerable variation among individuals, with a potentially strong personality component.
Lead researcher Laszlo Garamszegiand says that singing may reveal risk taking because conspicuous songs not only attract females, they may also attract the attention of predators.
The researcher believes that only high-quality individuals can afford to display attractive songs, and they will necessarily be risk takers.
A bird's vocal repertoire may also highlight exploration because adventurous individuals will explore a range of habitats, where they encounter diverse acoustic features from other individuals that can be incorporated into their song.
Garamszegi's team recorded the song of 24 males in a European Collared Flycatcher population, and characterised several song features.
The researchers also performed behavioural tests with the same males to determine explorative behaviour in an altered breeding environment, and to assess risk taking when a potential predator was approaching.
They said that male birds that sang at low song posts relative to the surrounding vegetation appeared to be explorers and risk takers.
According to them, singing close to the ground might involve higher predation risk because it offered less concealment, and put males in a conspicuous position from the predators' eye.
Only prime quality individuals could cope with such costs of exposed singing, they said, because cheaters would be eliminated by predators.
Based on their observations, the researchers came to the conclusion that the chose of song post could influence mating success, as males from lower posts were also found to establish pair bonds earlier.
They said that it was probably due to the female preference for males singing in exposed sites.
The researcher claim that theirs is the first study to reveal in a non-human taxon that the male's need to balance investment in reproduction against risk taking is reflected in sexual displays.
According to them, this may be important information for choosy females seeking partners with personality traits that will enhance breeding success.
They believe that their findings may help further scientists' understanding of both the use of conspicuous sexual signals in animals, and the deep evolutionary origin of personality in humans.
The study has been reported in the open-access journal PLoS ONE.