Victory displays are behaviours that occur after the conclusion of a signaling contest, performed solely by the contest winner. Victory displays may reinforce the dominance of the winner either to the loser or to other conspecifics within signaling range. Victory displays are poorly studied despite the significant consequences that post-conflict behaviour may have on the individuals involved. We examined the period immediately following 50 territorial countersinging contests between males in 10 neighbourhoods of black-capped chickadees (Poecile atricapillus) of known dominance rank. We characterized the post-contest singing behaviour of chickadees and evaluated whether post-contest behaviour is consistent with victory displays. Using a 16-microphone acoustic location system to simultaneously record entire neighbourhoods of breeding chickadees, we isolated 50 dyadic countersinging contests and measured the vocal behaviour of the contestants in the minutes following each interaction. Eighty-six percent of contests were followed by a period of solo singing by one of the contestants, while 14% were followed by silence. The post-contest singer was most often the contestant who held a subordinate dominance position in the previous winter’s dominance hierarchy; dominant males performed post-contest song bouts significantly less often. Asymmetry in overlapping between contestants did not predict which bird sang a post-contest bout. However, in a significant majority of cases, the post-contest singer was pitch-matched by his opponent during the contest more than he pitch-matched his opponent. Our results indicate that male chickadees do not perform acoustic victory displays after countersinging contests. In contrast, the post-contest behaviour of territorial chickadees is more consistent with a “loser display”.
Used an Acoustic Location System to record neighbourhoods of territorial songbirds