January 26, 2011
‘Mum! I’m Hungry!’ Hungry Chicks Have Unique Calls To Their Parents
It can be hard to get noticed when you're a little chick in a big colony, but new research published in BioMed Central's open access journal BMC Ecology reveals that baby birds in need of a feed have individual ways of letting their parents know.
German and Swiss ornithologists studied the calls of chicks in a population of Jackson's golden-backed weaver birds on the shores of Lake Baringo in Kenya. Already knowing that parent birds can distinguish their own chicks from others by unique pattern changes in the frequency of their call, the researchers wondered how the parents could also tell if their own chick was hungry, and how hungry.
The group found that the weaver bird chicks changed the length, pitch and amplitude of their begging calls, adding extra trills and shortening whistles. In fact, the hungrier a chick got, the more unique the call became. It seems that if you're a baby bird singing for your supper, the best way to make sure you get fed is to sing a different tune from everyone else!
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