Redistribution of songbirds within a migratory stopover site as a response to sylviid warbler song playback

Yael Lehnardt, Nir Sapir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Assessing habitat quality is critical for migrating birds, with implications for fuel loading, predation risk and timing of departure. To efficiently distribute within stopover sites, migrants rely on various cues that facilitate habitat quality assessment. In this study, we conducted a playback experiment at a mid-route stopover site to test the effects of vocal cues, specifically bird songs, on habitat redistribution during spring migration. To estimate the effect of bird songs on bird abundance we mist-netted and ringed birds for 60 days on alternating playback treatment (playing songs of three sylviid warbler species) and no playback (control) days. A nearby site was used to control for fluctuations caused by migration waves. Overall, total bird abundance was significantly increased by the playback treatment. This increase resulted from the attraction of conspecifics (species whose songs were played) rather than of other species – sylviids or others. Correspondingly, species richness was seemingly unaffected. To investigate the relationship between internal-state factors and the attraction to playback in the most abundantly attracted species, Eurasian Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla, we tested associations with age, sex and body condition index but found no significant effects, possibly because of the limited sample size. Our findings challenge established ideas regarding heterospecific attraction and contradict previous studies. Attraction to bird song is discussed in the context of geographical location, timing and internal drivers. Vocal cues, specifically bird songs, may affect micro-habitat selection by migrating songbirds during stopovers. Consequently, we call for consideration of the influence of the acoustic environment on birds during migratory stopover in future studies, habitat management and conservation efforts.

Original languageAmerican English
StateAccepted/In press - 1 Jan 2024


  • bioacoustics
  • Eurasian Blackcap
  • habitat selection
  • migration
  • stopover ecology

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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


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