Song repertoire

Indigobirds have an amazing array of vocalizations (Payne 1973, 1982). Males imprint on the songs of their host during development, and mimic these songs as adults. Furthermore, males learn indigobird vocalizations from local adults after fledging, including a chatter call and a suite of complex non-mimicry songs.

This call is a rapid sequence (8-16 times per second) of notes of the same pitch and similar duration (Payne 1973). Chatter calls of an individual bird vary in the number of notes and the time between successive notes, and there are no consistent differences in chatter calls among species.

Indigobirds also sing an array of non-mimetic songs that are species specific and consist of a series of dissimilar notes given in rapid succession (Payne 1973). These songs sound squeaky, and contrast sharply from the mimicry songs (see below). Individual indigobirds typically have a repertoire size of 12-16 complex non-mimicry songs, but this number can be as high as 21 (Payne 1973). These repertoires are shared by males in the same locality, but local dialects change over short distances and can be completely non-overlapping in intraspecific populations separated by 200km (Payne 1973).

Indigobird males imprint on the songs of their host species during development and incorporate these vocalizations into their repertoires as adults. Singing males therefore advertise the particular host species that raised them, and females use this information in mate choice. Since all indigobirds chatter, have variable and complex non-mimicry, and are morphologically similar, mimetic elements of song are often the easiest and most reliable cues used in distinguishing among species. Therefore, knowing the songs of potential hosts in the area and identifying host mimicry in a singing indigobird is an effective way to identify the bird to species.

See the Downloads pages for song clips.

See the Species Accounts pages for details on host mimicry songs.


Complex non-mimicry

Host mimicry

Quicktime video of scrolling sonogram of Vidua purpurascens chatter.

Quicktime video of scrolling sonogram of  Vidua purpurascens complex non-mimicry.

Hosted by: Boston University


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