Off-campus UMass Amherst users: To download dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your UMass Amherst user name and password.

Non-UMass Amherst users, please click the view more button below to purchase a copy of this dissertation from Proquest.

(Some titles may also be available free of charge in our Open Access Dissertation Collection, so please check there first.)

The singing behavior of prairie warblers (Dendroica discolor)

Peter William Houlihan, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The song system of Prairie Warblers can be partitioned into two physically and functionally distinct categories. A songs and B songs can be distinguished by their overall form and many acoustic characteristics. A songs relative to B songs, were lower in frequency, had a greater number of shorter “buzzy” notes and were longer in duration. Males tended to use A songs in an intersexual context. Unmated males sung A songs almost exclusively. A songs were also used in the presence of females throughout the breeding season. B songs were more likely to be used in an intersexual context. Once males were mated they began to sing a dawn chorus of B songs and tended to sing a higher percentage of B songs throughout the day. Males which either experimentally or naturally had their mate removed switched to singing A songs at a high rate. The geographic pattern of song types differed for A and B songs. Males within a population tended to have B songs, but not A songs, that were more similar in acoustic characteristics. The macrogeographic pattern of song types was also different in the two song categories. A songs tended to be widely distributed throughout the species range. In contrast many B song forms where limited geographically.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Houlihan, Peter William, "The singing behavior of prairie warblers (Dendroica discolor)" (2000). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9960759.