Researchers Study Birds’ Communication Network, Alarm Calls

Every social community has its faux information. And in animal communication mesh, even birds recognize the trustworthiness of their neighbors, a study from the University of Montana suggests.Researchers Study Birds' Communication Network, Alarm Calls

The research, recently printed in the prime science journal Nature, is the culmination of a long time’ price of analysis from UM alumni Nora Carlson and Chris Templeton and UM Prof. Erick Greene in the College of Humanities and Sciences. It brings new light on bird social networks.

Carlson, Templeton, and Greene developed an interest in attempting to crack the Rosetta Stone of how birds communicate and picked up bird calls over the years.

However, for warning calls, each sound stands for a selected threat, resembling a “snake on the ground,” “flying hawk,” and “perched hawk.” The calls convey the present threat level and particular information. They are also heard by all species in the forest in a large communication network that units them on high alert.

In the research, Greene and his researchers needed to find out how black-capped chickadees and red-breasted nuthatches encode message in their calls.

In bird calls, a high-pitched “seet” from a chickadee signifies a flying hawk and causes a strong response—other birds go silent, look up and then hide in the bushes. Alarm calls can travel rapidly via the woods. Greene mentioned in previous experiments that they calulated the speed of the calls at 100 miles per hour, which he compared to the bow wave on a ship.

A harsh “mobbing call” drives birds from all species to gather together to attack the predator. When the danger hears the mobbing call, it often has to fly a lot farther to hunt.


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