CSIRO Publishing blank image blank image blank image blank imageBooksblank image blank image blank image blank imageJournalsblank image blank image blank image blank imageAbout Usblank image blank image blank image blank imageShopping Cartblank image blank image blank image You are here: Journals > Emu   
  Journal of BirdLife Australia
blank image Search
blank image blank image
blank image
  Advanced Search

Journal Home
About the Journal
Editorial Structure
Online Early
Current Issue
Just Accepted
All Issues
Special Issues
Research Fronts
Rowley Reviews
Virtual Issues
Sample Issue
For Authors
General Information
Submit Article
Author Instructions
Open Access
Awards and Prizes
For Referees
Referee Guidelines
Review an Article
Annual Referee Index
For Subscribers
Subscription Prices
Customer Service
Print Publication Dates
Library Recommendation

red arrow Complete Archive
blank image
With the complete digital archive of Emu now online, we have selected some of the most interesting and significant papers for readers to access freely.

blue arrow e-Alerts
blank image
Subscribe to our Email Alert or RSS feeds for the latest journal papers.

red arrow Connect with BirdLife
blank image
facebook TwitterIcon LinkedIn

red arrow Connect with CP
blank image
facebook twitter logo LinkedIn


Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 114(3)

The vocal repertoire of the cooperatively breeding Apostlebird (Struthidea cinerea)

Miyako H. Warrington A D, Paul G. McDonald B, Aliza K. Sager A and Simon C. Griffith A C E

A Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW 2109, Australia.
B Behavioural and Physiological Ecology Research Centre, Zoology, School of Environmental and Rural Sciences, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia.
C School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia.
D Present address: Natural Resources Institute, University of Manitoba, 70 Dysart Road, Winnipeg, MB, R3T 2N2, Canada.
E Corresponding author. Email: simon.griffith@mq.edu.au

Emu 114(3) 206-221 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/MU13051
Submitted: 12 June 2013  Accepted: 16 January 2014   Published: 5 June 2014

PDF (615 KB) $25
 Export Citation

The role of acoustic communication in facilitating social interactions and mediating cooperative behaviour has been highlighted by many studies. In the ‘social complexity hypothesis’ of communication, many more specialised signals are likely to evolve in social species where many individuals interact in multiple behaviours. However, before the function of vocalisations in these systems can be elucidated accurately, the characteristics and social context of each vocalisation must be determined. Apostlebirds (Struthidea cinerea) are a highly vocal and social species with an obligate cooperatively breeding life-history. In this study, we describe the environmental and behavioural context of the 17 most common calls from the vocal repertoire of a study population of Apostlebirds in north-western New South Wales. The vocalisations given by individuals ranged from simple, monosyllabic calls through to more complex calls with multiple syllables and frequency modulations. All these calls were broadly categorised as close-range, long-range, alarm context, or associated with nesting. Most call-types were given by both sexes, and by both breeders and helpers, including alarm calls that were given by both juveniles and adults. In contrast, calls given during inter-group interactions were predominantly by adults.

Additional keywords: avian acoustics, call analysis, Corcoracidae, sociality.


Baker, M. C. (2004). The chorus song of cooperatively breeding Laughing Kookaburras (Coraciiformes, Halcyonidae : Dacelo novaeguineae): characterization and comparison among groups. Ethology 110, 21–35.
CrossRef |

Baker, M. C. (2009). Information content in chorus songs of the group-living Australian Magpie (Cracticus tibicen dorsalis) in Western Australia. Ethology 115, 227–238.
CrossRef |

Baldwin, M. (1974). Studies of the Apostle Bird at Inverell. Part I. General behaviour. Sunbird 5, 77–88.

Baldwin, M. (1975). Studies of the Apostle Bird at Inverell. Part II. Breeding behaviour. Sunbird 6, 1–7.

Beecher, M. D., Beecher, I. M., and Hahn, S. (1981). Parent–offspring recognition in Bank Swallows (Riparia riparia): II. Development and acoustic basis. Animal Behaviour 29, 95–101.
CrossRef |

Black, J. M. (1988). Preflight signalling in swans: a mechanism for group cohesion and flock formation. Ethology 79, 143–157.
CrossRef |

Blumstein, D. T., and Armitage, K. B. (1997). Does sociality drive the evolution of communicative complexity? A comparative test with ground dwelling sciurid alarm calls. American Naturalist 150, 179–200.
CrossRef | CAS | PubMed |

Bousquet, C. A. H., Sumpter, D. J. T., and Manser, M. B. (2010). Moving calls: a vocal mechanism underlying quorum decisions in cohesive groups. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London – B. Biological Sciences 278(1711), 1482–1488.

Brown, E. D., and Farabaugh, S. M. (1991). Song sharing in a group-living songbird, the Australian Magpie, Gymnorhina Tibicen. Part III. Sex specificity and individual specificity of vocal parts in communal chorus and duet songs. Behaviour 118, 244–274.
CrossRef |

Brown, E. D., Farabaugh, S. M., and Veltman, C. J. (1988). Song sharing in a group-living songbird, the Australian Magpie, Gymnorhina tibicen. Part I. Vocal sharing within and among social groups. Behaviour 104, 1–27.
CrossRef |

Catchpole, C. K., and Slater, P. J. B. (2008). ‘Bird Song: Biological Themes and Variations’, 2nd edn. (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK.)

Chamberlain, D. R., and Cornwell, G. W. (1971). Selected vocalizations of the Common Crow. Auk 88, 613–634.

Chapman, G. (1998). The social life of the Apostlebird Struthidea cinerea. Emu 98, 178–183.
CrossRef |

Charif, R., Strickman, L., and Waack, A. (2008). ‘Raven Pro 1.3 User’s Manual.’ (Cornell Lab of Ornithology: Ithaca, NY.)

Clutton-Brock, T. (2002). Breeding together: kin selection and mutualism in cooperative vertebrates. Science 296, 69–72.
CrossRef | CAS | PubMed |

Falls, J. B. (1982). Individual recognition by sounds in birds. In ‘Acoustic Communication in Birds’. (Eds D. E. Kroodsma and E. H. Miller.) pp. 237–278. (Academic Press: New York.)

Freeberg, T. M., Dunbar, R. I. M., and Ord, T. J. (2012). Social complexity as a proximate and ultimate factor in communicative complexity. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences 367, 1785–1801.
CrossRef | PubMed |

Goodale, E., and Podos, J. (2010). Persistence of song types in Darwin’s Finches, Geospiza fortis, over four decades. Biology Letters 6, 589–592.
CrossRef | PubMed |

Greig, E., and Pruett-Jones, S. (2008). Splendid songs: the vocal behaviour of Splendid Fairy-wrens (Malurus splendens melanotus). Emu 108, 103–114.
CrossRef |

Griesser, M., Barnaby, J., Schneider, N. A., Figenschau, N., Wright, J., Griffith, S. C., Kazem, A., and Russell, A. F. (2009). Influence of winter ranging behaviour on the social organization of a cooperatively breeding bird species, the Apostlebird. Ethology 115, 888–896.
CrossRef |

Griffiths, R., Daan, S., and Dijkstra, C. (1996). Sex identification in birds using two CHD genes. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences 263, 1251–1256.
CrossRef | CAS |

Higgins, P. J., Peter, J. M., and Cowling, S. J. (2006). Apostlebird. In ‘Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Vol. 7: Boatbill to Starlings’. (Eds P. J. Higgins, J. M. Peter, S. J. Cowling.) pp. 797–815. (Oxford University Press: Melbourne.)

Halpin, Z. T. (1991). Kin recognition cues of vertebrates. In ‘Kin Recognition’. (Ed. P.G. Hepper.) pp. 220–258. (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK.)

Hill, B. G., and Lein, M. R. (1985). The non-song vocal repertoire of the White-crowned Sparrow. Condor 87, 327–335.
CrossRef |

Janik, V. M. (1999). Pitfalls in the categorization of behaviour: a comparison of dolphin whistle classification methods. Animal Behaviour 57, 133–143.
CrossRef | PubMed |

Johnson, F. R., McNaughton, E. J., Shelley, C. D., and Blumstein, D. T. (2003). Mechanisms of heterospecific recognition in avian mobbing calls. Australian Journal of Zoology 51, 577–585.
CrossRef |

Kalinowski, S. T., Taper, M. L., and Marshall, T. C. (2007). Revising how the computer program CERVUS accommodates genotyping error increases success in paternity assignment. Molecular Ecology 16, 1099–1106.
CrossRef | PubMed |

Kennedy, R. A. W., Evans, C. S., and McDonald, P. G. (2009). Individual distinctiveness in the mobbing call of a cooperative bird, the Noisy Miner Manorina melanocephala. Journal of Avian Biology 40, 481–490.
CrossRef |

Krams, I., Krama, T., Freeberg, T. M., Kullberg, C., and Lucas, J. R. (2012). Linking social complexity and vocal complexity: a parid perspective. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences 367, 1879–1891.
CrossRef | PubMed |

Marler, P. (2004). Bird calls: a cornucopia for communication. In ‘Nature’s Music: The Science of Birdsong’. (Ed. P. S. H. Marler.) pp. 132–177 (Elsevier Academic Press: San Diego, CA.)

Mathevon, N., Koralek, A., Weldele, M., Glickman, S. E., and Theunissen, F. (2010). What the hyena’s laugh tells: sex, age, dominance and individual signature in the giggling call of Crocuta crocuta. BMC Ecology 10, 9.
CrossRef | PubMed |

McDonald, P. G. (2012). Cooperative bird differentiates between the calls of different individuals, even when vocalizations were from completely unfamiliar individuals. Biology Letters 8, 365–368.
CrossRef | PubMed |

McDonald, P. G., and Wright, J. (2011). Bell Miner provisioning calls are more similar among relatives and are used by helpers at the nest to bias their effort towards kin. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences 278, 3403–3411.
CrossRef |

McDonald, P. G., Heathcote, C. F., Clarke, M. F., Wright, J., and Kazem, A. J. N. (2007). Provisioning calls of the cooperatively breeding Bell Miner Manorina melanophrys encode sufficient information for individual discrimination. Journal of Avian Biology 38, 113–121.
CrossRef |

Payne, R. B., Payne, L. L., Rowley, I., and Russell, E. M. (1991). Social recognition and response to song in cooperative Red-winged Fairy-wrens. Auk 108, 811–819.

Podos, J. (1997). A performance constraint on the evolution of trilled vocalizations in a songbird family (Passeriformes : Emberizidae). Evolution 51, 537–551.
CrossRef |

Pollard, K. A., and Blumstein, D. T. (2012). Evolving communicative complexity: insights from rodents and beyond. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences 367, 1869–1878.
CrossRef | PubMed |

Popa-Lisseanu, A. G., Bontadina, F., Mora, O., and Ibanez, C. (2008). Highly structured fission–fusion societies in an aerial-hawking, carnivorous bat. Animal Behaviour 75, 471–482.
CrossRef |

Price, J. J. (1999). Recognition of family-specific calls in Stripe-backed Wrens. Animal Behaviour 57, 483–492.
CrossRef | PubMed |

Radford, A. N. (2004). Vocal mediation of foraging competition in the cooperatively breeding Green Woodhoopoe (Phoeniculus purpureus). Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 56, 279–285.
CrossRef |

Radford, A. N., and Ridley, A. R. (2008). Close calling regulates spacing between foraging competitors in the group-living Pied Babbler. Animal Behaviour 75, 519–527.
CrossRef |

Reyer, H. U., and Schmidl, D. (1988). Helpers have little to laugh about: group structure and vocalisation in the Laughing Kookaburra Dacelo novaeguineae. Emu 88, 150–160.
CrossRef |

Rollins, L. A., Holleley, C. E., Wright, J., Russell, A. F., and Griffith, S. C. (2010). Isolation and characterization of 12 polymorphic tetranucleotide microsatellite loci in the Apostlebird (Struthidea cinerea). Conservation Genetics Resources 2, 229–231.

Searcy, W. A. (1992). Song repertoire and mate choice in birds. American Zoologist 32, 71–80.

Sethi, V. K., and Bhatt, D. (2008). Call repertoire of an endemic avian species, the Indian Chat Cercomela fusca. Current Science 94, 1173–1179.

Sharp, S. P., and Hatchwell, B. J. (2005). Individuality in the contact calls of cooperatively breeding Long-tailed Tits (Aegithalos caudatus). Behaviour 142, 1559–1575.
CrossRef |

Smith, W. J., and Smith, A. M. (1996). Vocal signalling of the Great Crested Flycatcher, Myiarchus crinitus (Aves, Tyrannidae). Ethology 102, 705–723.

Snowdon, C. T., and Hausberger, M. (1997). ‘Social Influences on Vocal Development.’ (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK.)

Stoddard, P. K. (1996). Vocal recognition of neighbours by territorial passerines. In ‘Ecology and Evolution of Acoustic Communication in Birds’. (Eds D. E. Kroodsma and E. H. Miller.) pp. 356–374. (Cornell University Press: Ithaca, NY.)

Tibbetts, E. A., and Dale, J. (2007). Individual recognition: it is good to be different. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 22, 529–537.
CrossRef |

Townsend, S. W., Hollen, L. I., and Manser, M. B. (2010). Meerkat close calls encode group-specific signatures, but receivers fail to discriminate. Animal Behaviour 80, 133–138.
CrossRef |

Trainer, J. M., and McDonald, D. B. (1993). Vocal repertoire of the Long-tailed Manakin and its relation to male–male cooperation. Condor 95, 769–781.
CrossRef |

Warrington, M. H., Rollins, L. A., Raihani, N. J., Russell, A. F., and Griffith, S. C. (2013). Genetic monogamy despite variable ecological conditions and social environment in the cooperatively breeding Apostlebird. Ecology & Evolution 3, 4669–4682.
CrossRef |

Whitmore, M. J. (1981). Egg predation and possible usurption of an Australian Magpie-lark’s nest by Apostlebirds. Emu 81, 111–112.
CrossRef |

Woxvold, I. A. (2004). Breeding ecology and group dynamics of the Apostlebird. Australian Journal of Zoology 52, 561–581.
CrossRef |

Woxvold, I. A., and Magrath, M. J. L. (2005). Helping enhances multiple components of reproductive success in the cooperatively breeding Apostlebird. Journal of Animal Ecology 74, 1039–1050.
CrossRef |

Woxvold, I. A., and Mulder, R. A. (2008). Mixed mating strategies in cooperatively breeding Apostlebirds Struthidea cinerea. Journal of Avian Biology 39, 50–56.
CrossRef |

Subscriber Login

Legal & Privacy | Contact Us | Help


© CSIRO 1996-2016