Several recent studies indicate that the consistency of song or syllable repetitions signals male quality. However, the comparability and efficacy of different measurement methods is not known. Here, I compared two approaches to measuring the consistency of syllable repetitions within the trills of House Wren (Troglodytes aedon) songs. In the first approach, I calculated the coefficient of variation (CV) in standard time–frequency measurements within each trill. In the second approach, I used spectrogram cross-correlation (SPCC), which measures the maximum pixel-by-pixel similarity of two spectrograms. The two approaches gave correlated estimates of trill consistency, but SPCC was more strongly related to two putatively biologically relevant traits: specifically, SPCC differed more strongly between age classes, and more variation in SPCC could be attributed to individual differences. CV-based measures complemented SPCC measures by clarifying some of the specific acoustic features whose consistency changed with age. Although additional comparisons between measurement approaches would be useful to assess generality, it appears that researchers interested in song or trill consistency should consider using an SPCC, or a combined SPCC- and CV-based, approach.
consistency, spectrogram cross-correlation, coefficient of variation, trills, songbirds