Female Pigeons Columba Livia, Respond to Multisensory Audio/Video Playbacks of Male Courtship Behavior

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Multiple signals from different sensory channels can enhance, diminish, or have no effect on one another when they are combined into a multisensory signal. Simultaneous auditory and visual signals are known to be important in avian courtship behaviour, but less is known about how the signal components from the two sensory channels interact and which channel is relied upon more. Here we use audio and video playback methods to test the significance of multisensory signals in the pigeon. We used audio- and videotaped male pigeon courtship behaviour as stimuli to assess behavioural reactions of conspecific females to silent video, to audio alone, to the combination of video and audio stimuli, and to a control video of an empty cage. Females responded to the test presentations by watching, circling, tail spreading and cooing. Considered alone, the audio channel elicited higher female response than did the video channel alone, particularly for female cooing responses. Together, however, the multisensory audio/video signal was more effective than either component alone at eliciting typical female courtship responses of circling and tail spreading. Courtship behaviour of these male pigeons is therefore considered an example of multisensory enhancement, in which the combination of signal channels functions to increase the impact of the communication signal.

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Animal Behaviour, v. 70, issue 4, p. 957-966