Song dialects in the yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella: bioacoustic variation between and within dialects


The yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella is a common European bird that sings in dialects that for decades have been distinguished by the existence of one single element (called a “specific”). In this study we looked into other possibilities for dialect discrimination, measuring 24 different variables. For the first time, multivariate statistics were used to discriminate dialect in yellowhammer song. Two similar dialects (XlB and XsB) that are not clearly defined in the literature were studied. Statistics incorporated (1) all variables, (2) no variables of “specific” elements, and (3) no variables under the influence of these “specific” variables. Multivariate statistics support dialect discrimination by ear and confirmed that only one element in yellowhammer song characterises dialect. In addition, we looked for local differences within two dialects and found that one local observation area showed a higher separation than the other sites (Meck1). However, as yet there is insufficient evidence for the existence of a new subdialect.

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Financial support was provided by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, WA 972/2-1). We thank the reviewer for comments and Mark Clegg for improving the English.

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Correspondence to Dieter Wallschläger.

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The experiments comply with the current laws of the study area.

Communicated by F. Bairlein.

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Wonke, G., Wallschläger, D. Song dialects in the yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella: bioacoustic variation between and within dialects. J Ornithol 150, 117–126 (2009).

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  • Yellowhammer
  • Emberiza citrinella
  • Specific elements
  • Dialect