Vocal variety in African penguins: Four basic vocalizations used for adult communication, two more for the young

July 30, 2014
African penguin vocalising. Credit: Favaro et al.

Adult African penguins communicate using four different vocalizations and juveniles and chicks use two begging calls to request food, according to a study published July 30, 2014 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Livio Favaro and colleagues from University of Turin, Italy.

African penguins vocalize to communicate with their parents, mates, and colony members; however, only basic descriptions of their calls currently exist. To further observe their vocal behavior, the authors of this study collected, categorized, and acoustically analyzed hundreds of audio and video vocal recordings from a large captive colony of in Italy. In addition, they identified the behavioral contexts in which calls were made.

Results show that four basic vocalizations can be found in the auditory repertoire of the adult African penguin: a contact call emitted by isolated birds, an agonistic call used in aggressive interactions, an ecstatic display song uttered by single birds during the breeding season, and a mutual display song vocalized by pairs at their nests. The authors also identified two distinct vocalizations interpreted as begging calls by nesting chicks (begging peep) and unweaned juveniles (begging moan). Since the is captive, the authors can't be sure they've identified all possible vocalizations, but they suggest this analysis helps to standardize known that can be used in further study of these endangered seabirds.

Explore further: Songbirds' elaborate cries for food show first signs of vocal learning

More information: PLoS ONE 9(7): e103460. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0103460

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