Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Migrating Songbirds Learn Survival Tips On The Fly

Date:
June 29, 2008
Source:
Queen's University
Summary:
Migrating songbirds take their survival cues from local winged residents when flying through unfamiliar territory. Observing local birds' 'mob' behavior helps migrants avoid predators, according to biologists.

Worm-eating warblers breed in North America, but winter in Central America. While migrating, they frequently inspect "mobs" of local winged residents, Queen's University biologists discovered.
Credit: Joseph Nocera

Migrating songbirds take their survival cues from local winged residents when flying through unfamiliar territory, a new Queen's University-led study shows.

It's a case of "When in Rome, do as the Romans do," says biologist Joseph Nocera, who conducted the research while working as an NSERC Postdoctoral Fellow at Queen's under the supervision of Biology professor Laurene Ratcliffe.

Avoiding predators can substantially increase a bird's chances of survival during migration, notes Dr. Nocera. But to do that, it first has to recognize who its predators are. "We believe some prey use social cues from other animals to gain information about potential predators," he says.

The research team tested whether migratory songbirds observe the anti-predator behaviour of local birds, which are familiar with local predators. One common form of this self-protecting behaviour is "mobbing": The birds approach a potential predator, rapidly changing position around its location and performing restless wing and tail movements while emitting loud, broad-frequency calls. These calls are easily recognizable and act as signals of threat.

Because migrating birds rarely participate in mobs, the researchers speculate that they may gain information about predator location, identity and degree of threat through listening to mob calls of other species residing in the area. To test this theory, they broadcast playbacks of alarm calls that were familiar (black-capped chickadee, common in North America) and foreign (blue-gray tanager, common in Central America) to birds migrating between Canada and Belize.

The Belizean resident birds responded only to the tanager calls, but migrant birds responded to both the tanagers and the chickadees.

These results present the first evidence that migrating birds pay attention to the anti-predator behaviour of local birds during migration, says Dr. Ratcliffe. "We suspect that the behaviour will be found to be a low-cost learning opportunity for migrants."

The next step for the researchers will be to compare sensitivity of migrating birds to unfamiliar mob-calls during their overwintering and migratory phases, and to assess the amount of information the respondents have learned by using predator decoys.

Findings from the study are published on-line in the current issue of the journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology.

Also on the research team with Drs. Nocera and Ratcliffe is Philip Taylor from Acadia University. Funding was provided in part by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the National Geographic Society.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Queen's University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Queen's University. "Migrating Songbirds Learn Survival Tips On The Fly." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 June 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080625105621.htm>.
Queen's University. (2008, June 29). Migrating Songbirds Learn Survival Tips On The Fly. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080625105621.htm
Queen's University. "Migrating Songbirds Learn Survival Tips On The Fly." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080625105621.htm (accessed September 17, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Some Tobacco Farmers Thrive Amid Challenges

Some Tobacco Farmers Thrive Amid Challenges

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) The South's tobacco country is surviving, and even thriving in some cases, as demand overseas keeps growers in the fields of one of America's oldest cash crops. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Given Rare Glimpse of 350-Kilo Colossal Squid

Scientists Given Rare Glimpse of 350-Kilo Colossal Squid

AFP (Sep. 16, 2014) Scientists say a female colossal squid weighing an estimated 350 kilograms (770 lbs) and thought to be only the second intact specimen ever found was carrying eggs when discovered in the Antarctic. Duration: 00:47 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Squid experts in New Zealand thawed and examined an unusual catch on Tuesday: a colossal squid. It was captured in Antarctica's remote Ross Sea in December last year and has been frozen for eight months. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ivorians Abandon Monkey Pets in Fear Over Ebola Virus

Ivorians Abandon Monkey Pets in Fear Over Ebola Virus

AFP (Sep. 16, 2014) Since the arrival of Ebola in Ivory Coast, Ivorians have been abandoning their pets, particularly monkeys, in the fear that they may transmit the virus. Duration: 00:47 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

    Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile: iPhone Android Web
    Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins