Document Type



Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor's Name

Victor Apanius

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

William Searcy

Third Advisor's Name

Thomas Philippi

Fourth Advisor's Name

Philip Stoddard

Date of Defense



The concentration of avian song at first light (i.e., the dawn chorus) is widely appreciated but has an enigmatic functional significance. The most widely accepted explanation is that birds are active but light levels are not adequate for foraging. As a consequence, the time of first song should be predictable from the light level of individuals singing at dawn. To test this, I collected data from a tropical forest of Ecuador, involving 130 species. Light intensity at first song was a highly repeatable species' trait (r = 0.57). Foraging height was a good predictor of first song, with canopy birds singing at lower light levels than understory birds (r = -0.62). Although light level predicts the onset of singing in tropical and temperate bird communities, the structural complexity and trophic specializations in tropical forests may exert an important influence, which has been overlooked in research conducted in the temperate zone.




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