Birdsong is a model system for animal communication studies, but our knowledge is greatly biased towards male birds.

We investigated function of female song in stripe-headed sparrows (Aimophila ruficauda) and found that during simulated territorial intrusions by a female, male or duetting pair, females played a leading singing role in territory defense and overall responded more strongly than males.

This role-reversal is novel among songbirds. These results suggest that females sing competitively against other females, and that intrasexual selection may be greater among females than among males.

Stripe-headed sparrows are group-living cooperative breeders, and preliminary data suggest that polyandry and/or resource defense may explain strong female singing behavior.

Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences

Proceedings B is the Royal Society's flagship biological research journal, dedicated to the rapid publication and broad dissemination of high-quality research papers, reviews and comment and reply papers. The scope of journal is diverse and is especially strong in organismal biology.

Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences

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