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Open Access item The Dusk Chorus from an Owl Perspective: Eagle Owls Vocalize When Their White Throat Badge Contrasts Most

Authors:Penteriani, Vincenzo
Delgado, María del Mar
Keywords:Dusk Chorus, Vocal display, Songbirds, Eagle, Owls
Issue Date:8-Apr-2009
Publisher:Public Library of Science
Citation:PLoS ONE 4(4): e4960. (2009)
Abstract:[Background] An impressive number of studies have investigated bird vocal displays, and many of them have tried to explain the widespread phenomenon of the so-called dawn and dusk chorus, the sunrise and sunset peaks in bird song output. As many as twelve non-exclusive hypotheses have been proposed to explain why twilight peaks in vocal display might be advantageous; but, even after more than two decades of study, the basis underlying the dusk and dawn chorus is still unclear. Moreover, to date, the majority of studies on this topic have focused on songbirds.
[Methodology/Principal Findings] We investigate here a novel hypothesis on why nocturnal birds with patches of white feathers call at twilight. We propose that white plumage patches and the timing of visual signaling have co-evolved to maximize the effectiveness of social communication such as the dusk chorus. This hypothesis centers on the recent discovery that eagle owls can adopt specific forms of visual signaling and is supported by the observation that adult eagle owls possess a white throat badge that is only visible during vocal displays. By monitoring the calling of eagle owls at dusk, a peak time for bird call output, we found that white throat badges contrasted most with the surrounding background during the owls' twilight chorusing.
[Conclusions/Significance] Crepuscular and nocturnal species appear to have evolved white patches that, shown in association with vocal displays, allow them to communicate in dark surroundings. The evolution of a white badge that operates jointly with call displays at dawn and dusk may be relevant to the eagle owls' social dynamics. Our explanation for the dusk chorus may possibly represent an overlooked but common pattern of signaling among crepuscular and nocturnal birds that combine patches of white feathers with twilight displays. Furthermore, our findings could be relevant to songbirds that breed in dark forest habitats and have contrasting white badges, as well as birds living in open habitats and showing contrasting bars.
Description:4 pages, 1 table, Figures S1 found at: doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0004960.s001 (1.58 MB DOC) and Video S1 found at: doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0004960.s002 (120.33 MB MPG)
Publisher version (URL):http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0004960
URI:http://hdl.handle.net/10261/14123
ISSN:1932-6203
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Appears in Collections:(EBD) Artículos

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