Couples showing off: audience promotes both male and female multimodal courtship display in a songbird
Social environments can shape animal communication. Although mutual courtship displays are generally thought to function in private communication between a male and a female, we provide experimental evidence that they work in a broader social context than previously thought. We examined the audience effect on mutual courtship in blue-capped cordon-bleus, a socially monogamous songbird. This species is characterized by conspicuous courtship shared between sexes: Both sexes sing songs and sometimes add a unique dance display that looks like human tap dancing. We found that in both sexes, multimodal courtship displays (song accompanied by dance) were promoted in the presence of an audience, especially if it was the opposite sex. In contrast, unimodal displays (song without dance) were suppressed by audiences. Because birds directed the courtship dancing toward their partners (but not the audience), multimodal courtship displays are likely meant to advertise their current mating status to other cordon-bleus.
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Nao Ota, Manfred Gahr, and Masayo Soma,
Couples showing off: audience promotes both male and female multimodal courtship display in a songbird. Science Advances, October 3, 2018.