Title

The Secret Language of Birds

Presentation Type

Poster

Abstract

Predation is a major selective force for most organisms. This selective force has yielded numerous anti-predator behaviors. In birds, the threat of predation has produced the shared use of alarm calls which they use to warn each other about near-by predators; the most pertinent being raptors. Recent studies have shown that avian alarm calls contain a plethora of information that can encode for threat level, species, behavior and location of a predator. Through these studies, researchers have discovered that birds are very good at visually discriminating different kinds of raptors. This allows birds to infer threat level because there is a strong relationship between threat level and the relative size of the avian predator vs it's prey; small prey have small predators while large prey have large predators. However there is very little known about the ability to discriminate between raptors acoustically. To fill this gap in our understanding, I experimentally tested whether birds can distinguish between different raptors based solely on acoustic cues. Using hidden speakers, I played the calls of different raptors to both Black-capped chickadees and Steller’s Jays and recorded both their acoustical and behavioral responses. These analyses so far have implications that birds can recognize the calls of potential predators, and even more interesting that these distinctions are used to infer threat level and actually influence their behavioral responses.

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Apr 12th, 11:00 AM Apr 12th, 12:00 PM

The Secret Language of Birds

UC Ballroom

Predation is a major selective force for most organisms. This selective force has yielded numerous anti-predator behaviors. In birds, the threat of predation has produced the shared use of alarm calls which they use to warn each other about near-by predators; the most pertinent being raptors. Recent studies have shown that avian alarm calls contain a plethora of information that can encode for threat level, species, behavior and location of a predator. Through these studies, researchers have discovered that birds are very good at visually discriminating different kinds of raptors. This allows birds to infer threat level because there is a strong relationship between threat level and the relative size of the avian predator vs it's prey; small prey have small predators while large prey have large predators. However there is very little known about the ability to discriminate between raptors acoustically. To fill this gap in our understanding, I experimentally tested whether birds can distinguish between different raptors based solely on acoustic cues. Using hidden speakers, I played the calls of different raptors to both Black-capped chickadees and Steller’s Jays and recorded both their acoustical and behavioral responses. These analyses so far have implications that birds can recognize the calls of potential predators, and even more interesting that these distinctions are used to infer threat level and actually influence their behavioral responses.