BIRDS MAKE FRIENDS WITH OTHER SPECIES BY SINGING SONGS

Focus-Science and Technology - - Discoveries -

Song­birds can recog­nise fa­mil­iar mem­bers of their own species by each in­di­vid­ual’s unique song. In­deed, stud­ies have also shown that dif­fer­ent species of birds recog­nise and co­op­er­ate with each other. But a study re­cently car­ried out in Aus­tralia sug­gests that these links may be be­tween spe­cific birds rather than the species in gen­eral.

A team from the Univer­sity of Chicago and the Univer­sity of Ne­braska in­ves­ti­gated two species of fairy wrens, var­ie­gated and splen­did, and found that the birds can recog­nise par­tic­u­lar in­di­vid­u­als of the other species. Both species of wren are small, non-mi­gra­tory song­birds that feed on in­sects, live in large fam­ily groups and breed at the same time of year. The breed­ing males of both species have strik­ing blue feath­ers.

“Splen­did and var­ie­gated fairy wrens are so sim­i­lar in their habi­tat pref­er­ences and be­hav­iour, we’d ex­pect them to act as com­peti­tors,” said Christina Masco, a grad­u­ate stu­dent from the Univer­sity of Chicago who coau­thored the study. “In­stead, we’ve found sta­ble, pos­i­tive re­la­tion­ships be­tween in­di­vid­u­als of the two species.”

The first clue came when the re­searchers played a recorded vo­cal­i­sa­tion of a wren from one species and no­ticed that birds from the other species would re­spond to the call and fly in to in­ves­ti­gate. Sub­se­quent ex­per­i­ments in­volved play­ing vo­cal­i­sa­tions from fa­mil­iar and un­fa­mil­iar birds to sim­u­late an in­tru­sion into the wrens’ ter­ri­tory.

Both splen­did and var­ie­gated fairy wrens were able to recog­nise the songs of birds from ei­ther species that shared their ter­ri­tory and would re­spond non-ag­gres­sively. Songs of birds from en­tirely dif­fer­ent species drew sim­i­lar re­sponses. But dom­i­nant males of both species re­sponded ag­gres­sively to un­fa­mil­iar songs be­long­ing to splen­did and var­ie­gated wrens from other ter­ri­to­ries.

By form­ing and keep­ing these as­so­ci­a­tions with an­other species, it’s thought that the fairy wrens can bet­ter de­fend their nests from preda­tors and their ter­ri­to­ries from ri­vals.

“WE’VE FOUND STA­BLE, POS­I­TIVE RE­LA­TION­SHIPS BE­TWEEN IN­DI­VID­U­ALS OF THE TWO SPECIES”

Splen­did fairy wren males shim­mer with bright blue feath­ers

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.