Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Eavesdropping nuthatches distinguish danger threats in chickadee alarm calls

20.03.2007
If Dr. John Watson had been chronicling the work of Christopher Templeton rather than the exploits of Sherlock Holmes, he might have entitled the latest research by Templeton "The Adventure of the Avian Eavesdroppers."

The University of Washington doctoral student has found the first example of an animal making sophisticated decisions about the danger posed by a predator from the information contained in the alarm calls of another species.

In a paper published this week in the on-line edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Templeton reports that red-breasted nuthatches (Sitta Canadensis) eavesdrop on the alarm calls of the black-capped chickadee to glean information about predators in their environment. Two years ago, Templeton showed that the chickadees’ (Poecile atricapillus) familiar chick-a-dee-dee-dee alarm calls contained a surprising amount of information. Now, it turns out, the nuthatches can understand the warnings given by the chickadee.

"No one has ever seen this behavior before. There are a fair number of animals that respond to other animal’s alarm calls. But this is the first example of subtle information from a call being interpreted by another species," said Templeton. "Nuthatches can tell if a raptor poses a high or low danger from the chickadee’s alarm call."

His earlier work showed that the chickadees had two types of alarm calls to warn about predators. When they see flying raptors – birds of prey such as hawks, owls and falcons – they issue a soft, high-pitched "seet" call. However, when they see a stationary or perched predator, chickadees use a loud, wide-spectrum chick-a-dee-dee-dee alarm to recruit other birds to harass, or mob, the predator and chase it away.

Analysis of recorded chickadee mobbing calls indicated that the acoustic features of the calls varied with the size of the predator observed. Most typically chickadees change the dee-dee-dee note at the end of the calls, sometimes adding five, 10 or 15 dees. When the recordings were played back to other chickadees their response was related to the size and threat presented by the potential predator. Small, agile raptors such as the pygmy owl which can prey on small songbirds present a greater danger to the chickadees than does the great horned owl, a larger, less maneuverable raptor.

Chickadees and nuthatches are similar in size, occupy many of the same habitats, exist in mix-species flocks during the winter and are attacked by the same predators. To see if and how nuthatches responded to the chickadee alarm calls, Templeton placed a speaker at the base of trees in a forest where pairs of the nuthatches were present. He observed their behavior when he played chickadee calls warning about pygmy and great horned owls. All trials were conducted when no live chickadee were present so their behavior wouldn’t influence the nuthatches.

The nuthatches exhibited strong mobbing behavior – more of them responded, flew closer to the speaker and appeared to be more agitated by flicking their wings when they heard the small predator alarm than when they heard the large owl alarm.

"It turns out that these animals are pretty smart," said Templeton. "Knowing what kinds of predators are around could be a matter of life or death for them, so it pays for them to listen to the alarm calls of other species. That one animal has cracked the code and extracted the information from another species is pretty amazing."

He said this appears to be learned behavior because the mobbing calls of the two songbird species are very different.

"Mobbing seems to be a way of teaching birds which predators are dangerous. But we have no idea how nuthatches learn to interpret the chickadee calls."

Joel Schwarz | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.washington.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Upcycling 'fast fashion' to reduce waste and pollution
03.04.2017 | American Chemical Society

nachricht Litter is present throughout the world’s oceans: 1,220 species affected
27.03.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Bare bones: Making bones transparent

27.04.2017 | Life Sciences

Study offers new theoretical approach to describing non-equilibrium phase transitions

27.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

From volcano's slope, NASA instrument looks sky high and to the future

27.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>