Reed Buntings Song Signals Their Marital Status!
Abstract from Ibis
20th May 1996
For some 20 years it has been realised that male Reed Buntings have two different singing styles in the breeding season - basically one is slow and the other is fast. Now Erwin Nemeth, writing in Ibis (138: 172-176), explains why this is. Unpaired males sang rapidly and appeared to be saying to unpaired females: come and get me, I am all alone. Paired males sang slower but carried on all through the breeding period.
Erwin was sure they were singing to keep their own mates happy and also to make sure that the mates of neighbouring males realised that they were still around and ready, willing and able to oblige. A previous study using DNA analysis in Britain had shown that only 45% of chicks had been fathered by their mother's territorial mate! The slower song is much more individual and so all the females in the area can have a very good idea of the identity of their local males.
There are some really steamy sex lives going on in European reedbeds!