A review of hypotheses for the functions of avian duetting

  title={A review of hypotheses for the functions of avian duetting},
  author={Michelle L. Hall},
  journal={Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology},
  • M. Hall
  • Published 1 March 2004
  • Environmental Science
  • Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Avian duets are striking for the remarkable precision with which duetting partners sometimes coordinate their songs. Duetting species are taxonomically diverse, and the form of their duets varies. The reasons some birds duet when most do not remains unclear despite numerous hypotheses for its function. I review work done so far on duetting, discuss evidence for and against hypotheses for its functions, and highlight approaches useful for future research. The four hypotheses that appear most… 

Group living facilitates the evolution of duets in barbets

It is found that duets evolved several times independently in different barbet lineages and that duetting evolved in association with group living, but not with sexual monochromatism or habitat type.

Angry Birds Need Not Apply: A Perspective on the Flexible form and Multifunctionality of Avian Vocal Duets

It is found that the best-supported function of duets across avian species has been joint resource defence, and associations between form and function are found, in that duets directed to non-pair individuals have higher amplitude and are more likely to have sex-specific notes than duet directed within the pair.

Migration and the evolution of duetting in songbirds

  • D. LogueM. Hall
  • Biology
    Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
  • 2014
It is found that duetting evolves in association with the absence of migration, but not with sexual monochromatism or tropical breeding, and the evolution of coordinated resource-defence signals in songbirds may be driven by ecological conditions that favour sedentary lifestyles and social stability.

The form and function of duets and choruses in Red-backed Fairy-wrens

Investigating how vocal behaviour varies across different mating systems allows us to test theoretical predictions and determine how mating system affects the evolution of signalling strategies in birds and other taxa.

A Review of Vocal Duetting in Birds

A superb solo, or a deviant duet? Overlapping songs in superb fairy-wrens

It is suggested that overlapping songs in superb fairy-wrens may be due to individuals responding independently of the same stimulus and/or “call and answer” between pair members.

The evolution of vocal duets and migration in New World warblers (Parulidae)

This study, the first description of the evolution of duetting in a large avian family with a temperate-zone origin, supports the hypothesis that duetting co-evolves with a sedentary natural history in birds.

The vocal behaviour and reproductive strategies of a neotropical duetting wren

The cumulative research on Rufous-and-white Wrens suggests duets play a role in other activities more so than in reproductive behaviour, and previous studies demonstrate that duetsplay an important role in acoustic contact, territory defence, and mate guarding.

Duets defend mates in a suboscine passerine, the warbling antbird (Hypocnemis cantator)

It is suggested that females adjust their vocal behavior in relation to the level of perceived threat to the partnership, and duet with males in order to repel same-sex rivals.



The function of duetting in magpie-larks: conflict, cooperation, or commitment?

  • M. Hall
  • Psychology
    Animal Behaviour
  • 2000
The experiment showed that, like many nonduetting species, magpie-larks recognize neighbours on the basis of song, and provided evidence of functional differences between duetting and solo singing which indicate that temporal coordination of song between partners is used to maintain the territory and pair bond.

Alternate functions for duet and solo songs in magpie-larks, Grallina cyanoleuca

Playground experiments suggested that duetting in magpie-larks was consistent with both defence of the territory and guarding the mate against usurpation, and duets are most likely to be performed for the purpose of cooperative territorial defence.

Song behaviour and reproductive strategies in a duetting wren, Thryothorus nigricapillus : I. Removal experiments

These experiments demonstrated that individual repertoires and duet precision do not change following a change in mates, refuting the pair bond maintenance hypothesis, and unpaired birds do not lose their territories, failing to support the hypothesis that duets are necessary for territory defence.


The two newly formed pairs of this report appear to be the first documented cases to fulfil the requirements underlying Wickler's (1980) pair-bonding hypothesis: the animals under study were showing a stable song pattern with pair-specific traits.

Insect duets: underlying mechanisms and their evolution

The mechanisms of the duet are examined first, followed by evolution and the associated change in searching strategies of each sex, and these are compared with acoustic interactions among males in those species that exhibit male–male synchrony and alternation.

Duetting in the subdesert mesite Monias benschi: evidence for acoustic mate defence?

It is concluded that song serves similar functions in each sex and that duets may arise through mutual mate defence and may prevent desertion of a partner.


It is hypothesized that the pattern of song organization in this species facilitates more coordinated and precise duetting, strongly suggesting that it represents a mutually beneficial signal.

Duetting and other synchronised displays of the blue-backed manakins, Chiroxiphia Spp

The blue-backed manakins of the genus Chiroxiphia are apparently unique among birds in the organisation of their courtship displays, in that the advertising calls which are a prelude to the courtship display, and the first phase of the Courtship display itself, are performed in perfect co-ordination by two males from the group.