North American elk bugle vocalizations: Male and female bugle call structure and context

J. A. Feighny, K. E. Williamson, J. A. Clarke*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


Bugle calls of male North American elk (Cervus elaphus) are common sounds during fall in the Canadian and United States Rocky Mountains. In contrast, bugle calls of female elk are rarely heard. We quantified the acoustic structure of elk bugle calls, which is an essential 1st step to understanding of the function of the call. We also investigated whether motivation-structural rules apply to these long-distance calls. We measured male elk bugle calls in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, during autumn of 1998 and 1999 and we measured female elk bugle calls on 2 Colorado elk ranches (private establishments that raise elk for commercial purposes) during spring of 2001 and 2002. All bugle calls had 3 segments: on-glide, whistle, and off-glide. Male bugle calls were longer in duration than female bugle calls (P < 0.01). Bugle calls emitted in aggressive interactions had 4 or 5 low-frequency formants, resulting in harsher, wider bandwidth bugles (P < 0.001) compared to the tonal calls emitted in nonaggressive contexts, which lacked formants. Thus, elk bugle calls appear to conform to motivation-structural rules.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1072-1077
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Mammalogy
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2006


  • Bugle call
  • Cervus elaphus
  • Communication
  • Motivation-structural rules
  • North American elk
  • Wapiti

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