Monotonous tui song due to city living
‘‘Females choose males by the quality of their song’’
For tui living in cities, the daily grind means they have more boring tunes than their forest cousins.
Urban tui tend to have more songs that are loud and simple than those in the forest.
A study, led by Sam Hill, finds tui in forests have complex songs, which have more sex appeal.
This is important if a guy tui wants to compete with others for a nest in desirable forest real estate, with its abundant food, nectar and insects ( Austral Ecology, January 4).
‘‘Females choose males by the quality of their song. If a male sings a complex song with a lot of notes, it indicates a good quality male,’’ Hill’s supervisor, senior lecturer at Massey University, Dr Weihong Ji said.
Another theory is tui in forests have more tui neighbours to learn tunes from. It could also be the rich food environment means they have better brain development, so sing better.
A post on Neighbourly.co.nz attracted a chorus of support for the observation some citydwelling tui have a call of one or two notes that can become annoying.
Michael Raynesw posted that he gardens all over Auckland and has noticed this one or two-note song. A theme in the discussion was the theory this could be an adolescent tui learning how to sing. However, Ji said young tui sound rough and their songs change from day to day.
She was not aware of a pattern of two-tone singing, but said it was likely to be an urban phenomenon. Also, tui share songs within suburbs.
Earlier research, led by her student Miriam Ludbrook, found urban tui are often loud to compete with traffic noise, as well as having a simple song.
Ji agreed with a theory on Neighbourly the boring birds could be mimicking something they have heard, as tui can copy what they hear. It is also likely they are singing notes that are inaudible to the human ear or too quiet to be heard above ambient city noise.
So, the science doesn’t back the idea put forward on social media of a predictable pattern of twotone urban tui singers.
Tui continue to learn new tunes throughout their lives. So, if you are bothered by a particularly monotonous tui, there’s always hope.
Urban tui tend to be louder and have simpler songs than their forest cousins.