Linking social complexity and vocal complexity: a parid perspective.
The Paridae family (chickadees, tits and titmice) is an interesting avian group in that species vary in important aspects of their social structure and many species have large and complex vocal repertoires. For this reason, parids represent an important set of species for testing the social complexity hypothesis for vocal communication--the notion that as groups increase in social complexity, there is a need for increased vocal complexity. Here, we describe the hypothesis and some of the early evidence that supported the hypothesis. Next, we review literature on social complexity and on vocal complexity in parids, and describe some of the studies that have made explicit tests of the social complexity hypothesis in one parid--Carolina chickadees, Poecile carolinensis. We conclude with a discussion, primarily from a parid perspective, of the benefits and costs of grouping and of physiological factors that might mediate the relationship between social complexity and changes in signalling behaviour.