Assessing safety through vocal cues

April 13, 2007
Assessing safety through vocal cues
A babler. Photo by Andy Radford

For the first time foraging birds have been shown to use vocal cues, rather than vision, to gain information on both the size of the group they are in and their spatial position within that group.

Numerous studies have reported a reduction in vigilance by foraging individuals when they are less vulnerable to predation; for example, in larger groups and in the centre of a group.

It is commonly assumed that foragers assess the presence and position of other group members visually, but many social species produce frequent ‘close’ calls while foraging.

In a new study published in Biology Letters, researchers from the universities of Bristol and Cape Town used playback experiments to show that foraging pied babblers (Turdoides bicolor) are less vigilant in response to the close calling of more individuals and individuals on either side of them, compared to calls of fewer individuals and calls on one side of them.

Dr Andy Radford, from the School of Biological Sciences, said: “These results suggest for the first time that foragers can use vocal cues to gain information on group size and their spatial position within a group, and adjust their anti-predator vigilance accordingly. Individuals should therefore keep both their eyes and ears open at all times.”

Source: University of Bristol

Explore further: Study: Words can deceive, but tone of voice cannot

Related Stories

Study: Words can deceive, but tone of voice cannot

November 23, 2015

A new computer algorithm can predict whether you and your spouse will have an improved or worsened relationship based on the tone of voice that you use when speaking to each other with nearly 79 percent accuracy.

How a flying bat sees space

October 21, 2015

Recordings from echolocating bat brains have for the first time given researchers a view into how mammals understand 3-D space.

New study examines how bullying by bosses emerges

September 29, 2015

As anyone who has experienced it will attest, dealing with a boss who acts abusively can be a very difficult and confusing experience. However, the process by which such behavior emerges has received little attention from ...

Researchers revolutionize closed captioning

March 22, 2012

( -- Ever since closed video captioning was developed in the 1970s, it hasn't changed much. The words spoken by the characters or narrators scroll along at the bottom of the screen, enabling hearing impaired viewers ...

Recommended for you


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.