Ring dove

The ring dove (Streptopelia risoria) was an important model species in behavioural endocrinology and neuroendocrinology in the 1960s to 1990s, and the hormonal and environmental influences on courtship behaviour have been investigated in great detail. The birds have a relatively simple courtship display, including a repeated bow-coo, during which the male bows in the direction of the female while making a characteristic coo call. We know that there is variation between males in the timing and coordination of the bow-coo, but we do not know whether or how this variation influences female evaluation of the male as a potential mating partner. Research on the neural mechanisms underlying female evaluation of an ongoing courtship display, which contributes to mate choice, is also lacking. We have two ongoing projects with ring doves.

 

 

Multi-modal communication

Research questions

The vast majority of courtship displays consist of components mediated using different sensory modalities. For example, in birds, courtship is often composed of visual and auditory signals. We are interested in how the individual parts of the multi-modal display interact with each other. The ring dove’s relatively simple audiovisual display is a good starting point for investigating the multi-modal communication involved in courtship. Our aims:

- quantify inter-individual variation of male courtship parameters

- find reliable behavioural measures of female response

- investigate the relationship between parameters of male courtship display and female behavioural response during the interaction between two birds

- use play-back stimuli and female behavioural responses to evaluate the role of different parameters of the male display

- use play-back stimuli and female behavioural responses to evaluate the nature of the integration between visual and auditory components

 

Recording system

We use a high-speed camera system and microphones to record video of the doves during experiments, and to acquire video stimuli for play-back experiments. The video system was developed in collaboration with a local company, loopbio (link: loopbio.com 1 ) with financial support from the BMBWF (HRSM infrastructure grant ‘Computational Ethology’).

 

Experimental set-up

The birds are tested in a cube with sides of ~0.5m. Two of the walls are covered with fabric, and the other three with net. We either test a pair of birds which can see and hear each other (initially separated with an opaque partition), or a single bird which views and hears stimuli via a monitor and speakers.

 

 

Team

Clementine Mitoyen (Univie) Cliodhna Quigley 2
Leonida Fusani 3

Collaborations

Nicole Artner 4, PRIP, TU Wien: algorithms for automated video tracking of birds

 

 

 

Neural responses to courtship

Research questions

Our overall goal is to find a neural signature of mate evaluation in female doves while they are observing courting males. We are also interested in how auditory and visual signals are integrated, which has not yet been studied in many bird species. Finally, we plan to use the EEG to explore the effect of steroid hormones on sensory processing and multisensory integration.

 

 

Recording system


We use small, light-weight loggers to record EEG from freely moving ring doves. The birds undergo a single surgery under anesthesia and analgesia in order to fix the electrodes and a connector to the skull. Previous work with pigeons and smaller birds has shown that this small implant does not negatively impact the behaviour or well-being of the birds. Whenever we want to record data, we attach the recording device to the connector. The data is recorded ‘on board’, so there are no cables involved and the birds can move freely without loss of signal quality. The system was implemented with financial support from Vetmeduni (Bright Spark grant to Cliodhna Quigley).
 

Experimental set-up

We record from birds during courtship interaction with a conspecific, or while the bird views and hears visual and auditory stimuli presented using a monitor and speakers.

Team

Cliodhna Quigley 2
Leonida Fusani 3

Collaborations

Niels Rattenborg 5, MPI Ornithology, Seewiesen
Lisa Trost 6, MPI Ornithology, Seewiesen