Singing in the moonlight: dawn song performance of a diurnal bird varies with lunar phase

Jennifer E York, Andrew J Young, Andy N Radford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

It is well established that the lunar cycle can affect the behaviour of nocturnal animals, but its potential to have a similar influence on diurnal species has received less research attention. Here we demonstrate that the dawn song of a cooperative songbird, the white-browed sparrow weaver (Plocepasser mahali), varies with moon phase. When the moon was above the horizon at dawn, males began singing on average 10 minutes earlier if there was a full moon compared to a new moon, resulting in a 67% mean increase in performance period and greater total song output. The lack of a difference between full and new moon dawns when the moon was below the horizon suggests that the observed effects were driven by light intensity, rather than other factors associated with moon phase. Effects of the lunar cycle on twilight signalling behaviour have implications for both pure and applied animal communication research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20130970
JournalBiology Letters
Volume10
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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