Faculty Publications and Presentations

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Published in The Auk, 124:926-944.


Vocal admixture often occurs where differentiated populations or species of birds meet. This may entail song sympatry, bilingually singing birds, and songs with intermediate or atypical characteristics. Different levels of vocal admixture at the range interface between Black-capped Chickadees (Poecile atricapillus) and Carolina Chickadees (P. carolinensis) have been interpreted as indicating that hybridization is frequent at some locations but not others. However, song ontogeny in these birds has a strong nongenetic component, so that inferences regarding hybridization based on vocal admixture require confirmation. We used diagnostic genetic markers and quantitative analyses of song to characterize population samples along two transects of the chickadee contact zone in the Appalachian Mountains. More than 50% of individuals at the range interface were of hybrid ancestry, yet only 20% were observed to be bilingual or to sing atypical songs. Principal component analysis revealed minimal song intermediacy. This result contrasts with an earlier analysis of the hybrid zone in Missouri that found considerable song intermediacy. Re-analysis of the Missouri data confirmed this difference. Correlation between an individual's genetic composition and its song type was weak in Appalachian hybrid populations, and genetic introgression in both forms extended far beyond the limits of vocal admixture. Therefore, song is not a reliable indicator of levels of hybridization or genetic introgression at this contact zone. Varying ecological factors may play a role in producing variable levels of song admixture in different regions of the range interface.