Call recognition in chicks of the Australian brush-turkey (Alectura lathami)

Katherine L. Barry, Ann Göth*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Most birds rely on imprinting and experience with conspecifics to learn species-specific recognition cues. Australian brush-turkeys (Alectura lathami) do not imprint and form no bonds with parents. They hatch asynchronously, disperse widely and meet juvenile conspecifics at an unpredictable age. Nevertheless, in captivity, hatchlings respond to other chicks. A recent study, which involved the use of robotic models, found that chicks prefer to approach robots that emit specific visual cues. Here, we evaluated their response to acoustic cues, which usually play an important role in avian social cognition. However, in simultaneous choice tests, neither 2-day-old nor 9-day-old chicks preferred the choice arm with playback of either chick or adult conspecific calls over the arm containing a silent loudspeaker. Chicks of both age classes, however, scanned their surroundings more during chick playback, and the response was thus consistent in younger and older chicks. We also presented the chicks with robotic models, either with or without playback of chick calls. They did not approach the calling robot more than they did the silent robot, indicating that the combination of visual and acoustic cues does not evoke a stronger response. These results will allow further comparison with species that face similar cognitive demands in the wild, such as brood parasites. Such a comparative approach, which is the focus of cognitive ecology, will enable us to further analyse the evolution and adaptive value of species recognition abilities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-54
Number of pages8
JournalAnimal Cognition
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2006

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