The songs of Anthus spinoletta littoralis and A. pratensis, in sympatric populations in SW Sweden were recorded, analysed in sound spectrographs and tested in the field. The purpose was to investigate: a) if the strophes are species specifically and individually distinct and, if so, whether pipits are able to make such distinctions; b) if the species-specific and individual-specific patterns are concentrated in different sections of the song and, if so, whether the species-specific section transmits individual-specific information and the individual-specific section transmits species-specific information as well.
The basic structure of the syllables in the terminating section of the strophe was found to be intraspecifically stereotyped, but varied between the two species. Replay experiments showed that territorial males could discriminate between con- and heterospecific strophes and this ability persisted when the terminating section of the strophe was replayed alone. The terminating part of the strophe did not seem to transmit individual-specific information to conspecific males. On the other hand, the basic structure of the syllables in the first section of the strophe was intraindividually stereotyped but varied between most conspecific males. Playback experiments showed that a territorial male could discriminate his neighbours' song patterns and this ability remained intact when the introductory phrase of the strophe was replayed alone. Both song pattern and position were necessary properties of the identifying signal in these pipits. But the introductory phrase of a total stranger did not seem to transmit unambiguous species-specific information to conspecific males.