Repertoire size, the number of unique song or syllable types in the repertoire, is a widely used measure of song complexity in birds, but it is difficult to calculate this exactly in species with large repertoires. A new method of repertoire size estimation applies species richness estimation procedures from community ecology, but such capture-recapture approaches have not been much tested. Here, we establish standardized sampling schemes and estimation procedures using capture-recapture models for syllable repertoires from 18 bird species, and suggest how these may be used to tackle problems of repertoire estimation. Different models, with different assumptions regarding the heterogeneity of the use of syllable types, performed best for different species with different song organizations. For most species, models assuming heterogeneous probability of occurrence of syllables (so-called detection probability) were selected due to the presence of both rare and frequent syllables. Capture-recapture estimates of syllable repertoire size from our small sample did not differ significantly from previous estimates using larger samples of count data. However, the enumeration of syllables in 15 songs yielded significantly lower estimates than previous reports. Hence, heterogeneity in detection probability of syllables should be addressed when estimating repertoire size. This is neglected using simple enumeration procedures, but is taken into account when repertoire size is estimated by appropriate capture-recapture models adjusted for species-specific song organization characteristics. We suggest that such approaches, in combination with standardized sampling, should be applied in species with potentially large repertoire size. On the other hand, in species with small repertoire size and homogenous syllable usage, enumerations may be satisfactory. Although researchers often use repertoire size as a measure of song complexity, listeners to songs are unlikely to count entire repertoires and they may rely on other cues, such as syllable detection probability.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Animal Science and Zoology