A deep-voiced black-capped chickadee may wonder why other birds ignore it, but there may be a good reason behind the snub, says a University of Alberta study that looked into how the bird responds to calls.
Dr. Isabelle Charrier and Dr. Chris Sturdy modified the black- capped chickadee calls, played those sounds back to the bird and observed how they reacted. They found that the chickadee relies on several acoustic features including pitch, order of the notes and rhythm of the call. They also rejected the calls of the control bird, the gray-crowned rosy finch, in favour of their own species. This research is published in the current edition of the journal, "Behavioural Processes."
The chickadees two most well-known vocalizations are the "chick-a-dee" call and the "fee-bee" song. The song is produced mainly by males and is used to attract a mate and to defend a territory during the breeding season. The learned call is produced by both sexes throughout the year and is believed to serve a variety of functions such as raising mild alarm, maintaining contact between mates and co-ordinating flock activities. They even go through stages of learning this "language," which explains why juvenile birds can be heard frantically practicing to perfect the call.
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