Individual distinctiveness in the mobbing call of a cooperative bird, the noisy miner Manorina melanocephala

Robert A. W. Kennedy, Christopher S. Evans, Paul G. McDonald

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    38 Citations (Scopus)


    Individual differentiation is usually advantageous in maximising the fitness benefits of interactions with conspecifics. In social species, where intraspecific interactions are frequent, this is likely to be particularly important. Indeed, some form of differentiation underpins most hypotheses proposed to account for cooperative behaviour in birds. The auditory modality is a likely candidate for this function, particularly for species where individuals are widely spaced and in dense vegetation. In this study, we examined the acoustic structure of a distinctive mobbing signal, the 'chur' call, of the cooperatively breeding noisy miner Manorina melanocephala. Using 250 calls from 25 individuals, a combination of spectrographic-based measurement of call parameters, cross-correlation and multi-dimensional scaling was used to test for systematic individual differences in call structure. Strong differences between individuals were observed in all measures, indicating that this call encodes sufficient information to facilitate individual differentiation. We then conducted a series of field playbacks to test the effect of the behaviour on conspecifics. Results demonstrated that the call, in isolation, has a clear attractant effect. Given that chur calls are synonymous with the characteristic cooperative mobbing behaviour of this species, these findings suggest they are likely to have an important function in coordinating complex social behaviour.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)481-490
    Number of pages10
    JournalJournal of Avian Biology
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2009


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