Behavioural correlates of female zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata) responses to multimodal species recognition cues

D. L.M. Campbell, M. E. Hauber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Successful sexual reproduction requires accurate mate selection, including correct species recognition. When studying multimodal species recognition cues, uncorrelated presentations of visual and acoustic traits can be valuable tools for investigating the relative importance of various sensory modalities in the recognition process. Using a model system for species recognition research, the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata), we investigated captive-bred females' behavioural responses to video and acoustic playbacks of male conspecific or phylogeographically relevant heterospecific cues. Females consistently spatially preferred conspecific cues when acoustic and visual cues were presented together or acoustic-only cues were played back. In contrast, females showed no discrimination when visual cues only were available and when the visual and acoustic cues of stimulus species were experimentally mismatched. Subjects showed significant individual variation in their attentiveness to playback stimulus types. The relevance of this behavioural individuality to mate choice was confirmed by a correlation between a female's attentiveness and whether it became pair bonded with an unfamiliar male in a free-flight aviary paradigm. These results are consistent with acoustic cues being more salient than visual cues presented through video playbacks and suggest that consistency in behavioural variation in female zebra finches across testing contexts may be relevant for appropriate mate selection decisions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)167-181
Number of pages15
JournalEthology Ecology and Evolution
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • conspecific discrimination
  • mate choice
  • recognition cues
  • species recognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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