The expression of bird song is expected to signal male quality to females. ‘Quality’ is determined by genetic and environmental factors, but, surprisingly, there is very limited evidence if and how genetic aspects of male quality are reflected in song. Here, we manipulated the genetic make-up of canaries (Serinus canaria) via inbreeding, and studied its effects upon song output, complexity, phonetics and, for the first time, song learning. To this end, we created weight-matched inbred and outbred pairs of male fledglings, which were subsequently exposed to the same tutor male during song learning. Inbreeding strongly affected syllable phonetics, but there were little or no effects on other song features. Nonetheless, females discriminated among inbred and outbred males, as they produced heavier clutches when mated with an outbred male. Our study highlights the importance of song phonetics, which has hitherto often been overlooked.
- Received May 24, 2016.
- Accepted July 7, 2016.
- © 2016 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.