Kris and I are amateur birders, and we have a well-worn Roger Tory Peterson Guide to prove we’ve been at it awhile. Neither of us is good at bird calls, but I envy those who can identify the odd migrating warbler by sounds/songs. I can’t, though I know most of the birds in our area. I “observed” a nuthatch at Northern Seminary’s president’s home the other day (at our retreat) before I saw the little thing land on their plentiful feeders. But this piece on the songs/sounds of the chickadees is something to cherish. Here’s a clip:
We thus have considerable evidence that the note composition of calls of Carolina chickadees is associated with detection of predators (both perched and flying), food detection, individual flight and motivation. The calls also vary in ways that may suggest markers for individual, flock, population or some combination of the three. Variation in the note types that make up the call corresponds to different contexts and to population-level characteristics. Studies of call variation have also been carried out in other parid species. For example, as a 2012 review article by Krams and coauthors reveals, perched predator contexts have been shown to have a similar effect on call note composition in black-capped chickadees, Mexican chickadees (Poecile sclateri) and willow tits. Call variation seems to be associated with food contexts in black-capped chickadees and with flight contexts in mountain chickadees (P. gambeli). Krama, Krams and Kristine Igaune in 2008 documented variation in the comparable call system in crested tits (Lophophanes cristatus), based on whether individuals were close to the relative safety of vegetation or were exposed in open areas away from cover. Another interesting finding about this species is that dominant individuals use their calls differently than subordinate individuals, which suggests possible personality-like influences on call variation.
What birds are you spotting these days? Our hummers seem to have gone South, but we’ve not seen many migrating ducks (grebes though are visible at our lake) or birds yet.
And don’t get me started about the skunks digging up our back yard. War has been declared.