Emu Emu Society
Journal of BirdLife Australia
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Diversity and function of vocalisations in the cooperatively breeding Chestnut-crowned Babbler

Jodie M. S. Crane A F , James L. Savage B C and Andrew F. Russell D E
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, Western Bank, Sheffield, S10 2TN, UK.

B Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge, CB2 3EJ, UK.

C Department of Animal Sciences, Wageningen University, PO Box 338, 6700 AH Wageningen, The Netherlands.

D Centre for Ecology and Conservation, University of Exeter Cornwall Campus, Treliever Road, Penryn, TR10 9FE, UK.

E Fowlers Gap Arid Zone Research Station, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia.

F Corresponding author. Email: jodie.m.s.crane@gmail.com

Emu 116(3) 241-253 https://doi.org/10.1071/MU15048
Submitted: 29 April 2015  Accepted: 28 November 2015   Published: 4 May 2016

Abstract

Vocalisations represent the primary mode of communication for most birds and vary greatly in form and function within and between species. Cataloguing the vocal repertoire of a species is a key foundation for behavioural research, as it provides both an objective measure of vocal complexity and a basis for further studies of vocal function. Here we present a descriptive catalogue of the vocal repertoire of the Chestnut-crowned Babbler (Pomatostomus ruficeps), a cooperatively breeding passerine endemic to inland south-eastern Australia. Using behavioural observations and simple methods of acoustic classification we identify and suggest functions for 13 main types of vocalisations, and also report five less common vocalisations that could not be assigned a unique function. Babblers possess no song, in the sense of a vocalisation primarily used for inter-group or territorial communication. The 13 calls with clear functions can be broadly classified into three alarm calls, five contact calls, and four social-interaction calls, with a final call used in both social and alarm contexts. This study represents the first catalogue of vocal repertoire in pomatostomid babblers, and aims to contribute to future comparative analyses of vocal complexity and inspire further work on the relationship between call structure and function.

Additional keywords: avian acoustics, Pomatostomidae, social brain hypothesis, social complexity hypothesis.


References

Altmann, J. (1974). Observational study of behavior: sampling methods. Behaviour 49, 227–266.
Observational study of behavior: sampling methods.CrossRef | 1:STN:280:DyaE2c7mtlWmsQ%3D%3D&md5=013e777cecbfece1c57677154f1cb3f2CAS | 4597405PubMed |

Baker, M. C., Baker, M. S. A., and Tilghman, L. M. (2006). Differing effects of isolation on evolution of bird songs: examples from an island–mainland comparison of three species. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. Linnean Society of London 89, 331–342.
Differing effects of isolation on evolution of bird songs: examples from an island–mainland comparison of three species.CrossRef |

Bioacoustics Research Program (2011). ‘Raven Pro: Interactive Sound Analysis Software (Version 1.4).’ (The Cornell Lab of Ornithology: Ithaca, NY.) Available from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/raven [Verified 8 November 2012].

Blumstein, D., and Récapet, C. (2009). The sound of arousal: the addition of novel non-linearities increases responsiveness in Marmot alarm calls. Ethology 115, 1074–1081.
The sound of arousal: the addition of novel non-linearities increases responsiveness in Marmot alarm calls.CrossRef |

Bradbury, J. W., and Vehrencamp, S. L. (2009). ‘Principles of Animal Communication.’ 2nd edn. (Sinauer Associates: Sunderland, MA)

Browning, L. E., Young, C. M., Savage, J. L., Russell, D. J. F., Barclay, H., Griffith, S. C., and Russell, A. F. (2012). Carer provisioning rules in an obligate cooperative breeder: prey type, size and delivery rate. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 66, 1639–1649.
Carer provisioning rules in an obligate cooperative breeder: prey type, size and delivery rate.CrossRef |

Buchanan, K. L., and Catchpole, C. (2000). Song as an indicator of male parental effort in the Sedge Warbler. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 267, 321–326.
Song as an indicator of male parental effort in the Sedge Warbler.CrossRef | 1:STN:280:DC%2BD3c7osFartA%3D%3D&md5=247be04510207e203ad4be80b003abeaCAS | 10722211PubMed |

Byrne, R. W., and Whiten, A. (1988). ‘Machiavellian Intelligence: Social Expertise and the Evolution of Intellect in Monkeys, Apes, and Humans.’ (Oxford University Press: Oxford, UK.)

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

Cockburn, A. (2006). Prevalence of different modes of parental care in birds. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 273, 1375–1383.
Prevalence of different modes of parental care in birds.CrossRef | 16777726PubMed |

Collias, N. E., and Collias, E. C. (2004). Comparison of vocal signals of three species of African finches. Behaviour 141, 1151–1171.
Comparison of vocal signals of three species of African finches.CrossRef |

Conover, M. R. (1994). Stimuli eliciting distress calls in adult passerines and response of predators and birds to their broadcast. Behaviour 131, 19–37.
Stimuli eliciting distress calls in adult passerines and response of predators and birds to their broadcast.CrossRef |

Cortopassi, K. A., and Bradbury, J. W. (2006). Contact call diversity in wild Orange-fronted Parakeet pairs, Aratinga canicularis. Animal Behaviour 71, 1141–1154.
Contact call diversity in wild Orange-fronted Parakeet pairs, Aratinga canicularis.CrossRef |

Crane, J. M. S., Pick, J., Tribe, A., Vincze, E., Hatchwell, B. J., and Russell, A. F. (2015). Chestnut-crowned Babblers show affinity for calls of removed group members: a dual playback without expectancy violation. Animal Behaviour 104, 51–57.
Chestnut-crowned Babblers show affinity for calls of removed group members: a dual playback without expectancy violation.CrossRef |

Dunbar, R. I. M. (1998). The social brain hypothesis. Evolutionary Anthropology 6, 178–190.
The social brain hypothesis.CrossRef |

Ellis, J. M. S. (2008). Which call parameters signal threat to conspecifics in White-throated Magpie-jay mobbing calls? Ethology 114, 154–163.
Which call parameters signal threat to conspecifics in White-throated Magpie-jay mobbing calls?CrossRef |

Ellis, J. M. S., Langen, T. A., and Berg, E. C. (2009). Signalling for food and sex? Begging by reproductive female White-throated Magpie-jays. Animal Behaviour 78, 615–623.
Signalling for food and sex? Begging by reproductive female White-throated Magpie-jays.CrossRef |

Engesser, S., Crane, J. M. S., Savage, J. L., Russell, A. F., and Townsend, S. W. (2015). Experimental evidence for phonemic contrasts in a nonhuman vocal system. PLoS Biology 13, e1002171.
Experimental evidence for phonemic contrasts in a nonhuman vocal system.CrossRef | 26121619PubMed |

Farnsworth, A. (2005). Flight calls and their value for future ornithological studies and conservation research. Auk 122, 733–746.
Flight calls and their value for future ornithological studies and conservation research.CrossRef |

Fee, M. S., Shraiman, B., Pesaran, B., and Mitra, P. P. (1998). The role of nonlinear dynamics of the syrinx in the vocalizations of a songbird. Nature 395, 67–71.
The role of nonlinear dynamics of the syrinx in the vocalizations of a songbird.CrossRef | 1:CAS:528:DyaK1cXmtVSlsLo%3D&md5=4d0b3586792bf4652a0c9ef1ebe0b558CAS | 12071206PubMed |

Fichtel, C., and Manser, M. (2010). Vocal communication in social groups. In ‘Animal Behaviour: Evolution and Mechanisms.’ (Ed. P. Kappeler.) pp. 29–54. (Springer: Berlin.)

Fitch, W. T., Neubauer, J., and Herzel, H. (2002). Calls out of chaos: the adaptive significance of nonlinear phenomena in mammalian vocal production. Animal Behaviour 63, 407–418.
Calls out of chaos: the adaptive significance of nonlinear phenomena in mammalian vocal production.CrossRef |

Freeberg, T. M. (2006). Social complexity can drive vocal complexity: group size influences vocal information in Carolina Chickadees. Psychological Science 17, 557–561.
Social complexity can drive vocal complexity: group size influences vocal information in Carolina Chickadees.CrossRef | 16866738PubMed |

Higgins, P. J., and Peter, J. M. (Eds) (2002). ‘Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Vol. 6: Pardalotes to Shrike-thrushes.’ (Oxford University Press: Melbourne.)

Janik, V. M., and Slater, P. J. B. (1998). Context-specific use suggests that Bottlenose Dolphin signature whistles are cohesion calls. Animal Behaviour 56, 829–838.
Context-specific use suggests that Bottlenose Dolphin signature whistles are cohesion calls.CrossRef | 9790693PubMed |

Karp, D., Manser, M. B., Wiley, E. M., and Townsend, S. (2014). Nonlinearities in Meerkat alarm calls prevent receivers from habituating. Ethology 120, 189–196.
Nonlinearities in Meerkat alarm calls prevent receivers from habituating.CrossRef |

Klump, G., and Shalter, M. D. (1984). Acoustic behaviour of birds and mammals in the predator context. Zeitschrift für Tierpsychologie 66, 189–226.
Acoustic behaviour of birds and mammals in the predator context.CrossRef |

Laiolo, P., Tella, J. L., Carrete, M., Serrano, D., and López, G. (2004). Distress calls may honestly signal bird quality to predators. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 271, S513–S515.
Distress calls may honestly signal bird quality to predators.CrossRef | 15801619PubMed |

Le Roux, A., Cherry, M., and Manser, M. B. (2009). The vocal repertoire in a solitary foraging carnivore, Cynictis penicillata, may reflect facultative sociality. Naturwissenschaften 96, 575–584.
The vocal repertoire in a solitary foraging carnivore, Cynictis penicillata, may reflect facultative sociality.CrossRef | 19247627PubMed |

Mahler, B., and Gil, D. (2009). The evolution of song in the Phylloscopus leaf warblers (Aves:Sylviidae): a tale of sexual selection, habitat adaptation, and morphological constraints. Advances in the Study of Behavior 40, 35–66.
The evolution of song in the Phylloscopus leaf warblers (Aves:Sylviidae): a tale of sexual selection, habitat adaptation, and morphological constraints.CrossRef |

Marler, P. (2004a). Bird calls: a cornucopia for communication. In ‘Nature’s Music: The Science of Birdsong’. (Eds P. Marler and H. Slabbekoorn.) pp. 135–180. (Elsevier: San Diego, CA.)

Marler, P. (2004b). Bird calls: their potential for behavioral neurobiology. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1016, 31–44.
Bird calls: their potential for behavioral neurobiology.CrossRef | 15313768PubMed |

Mathevon, N., Aubin, T., and Brémond, J. C. (1997). Propagation of bird acoustic signals: comparative study of Starling and Blackbird distress calls. Comptes Rendus de l’Académie des Sciences. Série III, Sciences de la Vie 320, 869–876.
Propagation of bird acoustic signals: comparative study of Starling and Blackbird distress calls.CrossRef | 1:STN:280:DyaK1c7mtV2iug%3D%3D&md5=ebb757cde03b4dd165e3db1fb03ec5fcCAS | 9499938PubMed |

Matthew, J. (2007). In ‘Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol. 12: Picathartes to Tits and Chickadees.’ (Eds J. del Hoyo, A. Elliot and D. Christie.) pp. 322–334. (Lynx Edicions: Barcelona.)

McComb, K., and Semple, S. (2005). Coevolution of vocal communication and sociality in primates. Biology Letters 1, 381–385.
Coevolution of vocal communication and sociality in primates.CrossRef | 17148212PubMed |

McDonald, P., and Wright, J. (2008). Provisioning vocalizations in cooperative Bell Miners (Manorina melanophrys): more than a simple stimulus for nestling begging. Auk 125, 670–678.
Provisioning vocalizations in cooperative Bell Miners (Manorina melanophrys): more than a simple stimulus for nestling begging.CrossRef |

Nicholls, J. A., and Goldizen, A. W. (2006). Habitat type and density influence vocal signal design in Satin Bowerbirds. Journal of Animal Ecology 75, 549–558.
Habitat type and density influence vocal signal design in Satin Bowerbirds.CrossRef | 16638007PubMed |

Nomano, F. Y., Browning, L. E., Nakagawa, S., Griffith, S. C., and Russell, A. F (2014). Validation of an automated data collection method for quantifying social networks of collective behaviors. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 68, 1379–1391.
Validation of an automated data collection method for quantifying social networks of collective behaviors.CrossRef |

Nomano, F. Y., Browning, L. E., Savage, J. L., Rollins, L. A., Griffith, S. C., and Russell, A. F. (2015). Unrelated helpers neither signal contributions nor suffer retribution in Chestnut-crowned Babblers. Behavioral Ecology 26, 986–995.
Unrelated helpers neither signal contributions nor suffer retribution in Chestnut-crowned Babblers.CrossRef |

Norris, R. A., and Stamm, D. D. (1965). Relative incidence of distress calls or ‘squeals’ in mist-netted birds. Bird-banding 36, 83–88.
Relative incidence of distress calls or ‘squeals’ in mist-netted birds.CrossRef |

Nottebohm, F., and Nottebohm, M. E. (1978). Relationship between song repertoire and age in the Canary, Serinus canarius. Zeitschrift für Tierpsychologie 46, 298–305.
Relationship between song repertoire and age in the Canary, Serinus canarius.CrossRef |

Otter, K. A., Atherton, S. E., and van Oort, H. (2007). Female food solicitation calling, hunger levels and habitat differences in the Black-capped Chickadee. Animal Behaviour 74, 847–853.
Female food solicitation calling, hunger levels and habitat differences in the Black-capped Chickadee.CrossRef |

Pizzey, G., and Knight, F. (2003). ‘The Field Guide to the Birds of Australia.’ 7th edn. (Ed. P. Menkhorst.) (HarperCollins Publishers: Sydney.)

Portelli, D., Barclay, H., Russell, D. J., Griffith, S. C., and Russell, A. F. (2009). Social organisation and foraging ecology of the cooperatively breeding Chestnut-crowned Babbler (Pomatostomus ruficeps). Emu 109, 153–162.
Social organisation and foraging ecology of the cooperatively breeding Chestnut-crowned Babbler (Pomatostomus ruficeps).CrossRef |

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

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

Raihani, N. J., and Ridley, A. R. (2007). Adult vocalizations during provisioning: offspring response and postfledging benefits in wild Pied Babblers. Animal Behaviour 74, 1303–1309.
Adult vocalizations during provisioning: offspring response and postfledging benefits in wild Pied Babblers.CrossRef |

Rendall, D., and Kaluthota, C. D. (2013). Song organization and variability in Northern House Wrens (Troglodytes aedon parkmanii) in western Canada. Auk 130, 617–628.
Song organization and variability in Northern House Wrens (Troglodytes aedon parkmanii) in western Canada.CrossRef |

Riede, T., Owren, M. J., and Arcadi, A. (2004). Nonlinear acoustics in pant hoots of Common Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes): frequency jumps, subharmonics, biphonation, and deterministic chaos. American Journal of Primatology 64, 277–291.
Nonlinear acoustics in pant hoots of Common Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes): frequency jumps, subharmonics, biphonation, and deterministic chaos.CrossRef | 15538766PubMed |

Russell A. F. (2016). Chestnut-crowned babblers: dealing with climatic adversity and uncertainty in the Australian arid zone. In ‘Cooperative Breeding in Vertebrates: Studies in Ecology, Evolution and Behavior’. (Eds W. D. Koenig, J. L. Dickinson.) pp. 150–164. (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, MA).

Russell, A. F., Portelli, D., Russell, D. J., and Barclay, H. (2010). Breeding ecology of the Chestnut-crowned Babbler: a cooperative breeder in the desert. Emu 110, 324–331.
Breeding ecology of the Chestnut-crowned Babbler: a cooperative breeder in the desert.CrossRef |

Seddon, N. (2005). Ecological adaptation and species recognition drives vocal evolution in neotropical suboscine birds. Evolution 59, 200–215.
Ecological adaptation and species recognition drives vocal evolution in neotropical suboscine birds.CrossRef | 15792239PubMed |

Sewall, K., Kelsey, R., and Hahn, T. (2004). Discrete variants of Evening Grosbeak flight calls. Condor 106, 161–165.
Discrete variants of Evening Grosbeak flight calls.CrossRef |

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

Sorato, E., Gullett, P. R., Creasey, M. J. S., Griffith, S. C., and Russell, A. F. (2015). Plastic territoriality in group-living Chestnut-crowned Babblers: roles of resource value, holding potential and predation risk. Animal Behaviour 101, 155–168.
Plastic territoriality in group-living Chestnut-crowned Babblers: roles of resource value, holding potential and predation risk.CrossRef |

Stefanski, R., and Falls, J. (1972). A study of distress calls of Song, Swamp, and White-throated Sparrows (Aves:Fringillidae). I. Intraspecific responses and functions. Canadian Journal of Zoology 50, 1501–1512.
A study of distress calls of Song, Swamp, and White-throated Sparrows (Aves:Fringillidae). I. Intraspecific responses and functions.CrossRef |

Tobias, J. A., and Seddon, N. (2002). Female begging in European Robins: do neighbors eavesdrop for extrapair copulations? Behavioral Ecology 13, 637–642.
Female begging in European Robins: do neighbors eavesdrop for extrapair copulations?CrossRef |

Tobias, J. A., Gamarra-Toledo, V., García-Olaechea, D., Pulgarín, P. C., and Seddon, N. (2011). Year-round resource defence and the evolution of male and female song in suboscine birds: social armaments are mutual ornaments. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 24, 2118–2138.
Year-round resource defence and the evolution of male and female song in suboscine birds: social armaments are mutual ornaments.CrossRef | 1:STN:280:DC%2BC3MfivFOrsA%3D%3D&md5=e306e906940b6aa4d64756a42be3821aCAS | 21707816PubMed |

Vanden Hole, C., Van Daele, P., and Desmet, N. (2014). Does sociality imply a complex vocal communication system? A case study for Fukomys micklemi (Bathyergidae, Rodentia). Bioacoustics 23, 143–160.
Does sociality imply a complex vocal communication system? A case study for Fukomys micklemi (Bathyergidae, Rodentia).CrossRef |

Volodina, E. V., Volodin, I. A., Isaeva, I. V., and Unck, C. (2006). Biphonation may function to enhance individual recognition in the Dhole, Cuon alpinus. Ethology 112, 815–825.
Biphonation may function to enhance individual recognition in the Dhole, Cuon alpinus.CrossRef |

Warrington, M. H., McDonald, P. G., Sager, A. K., and Griffith, S. C. (2014). The vocal repertoire of the cooperatively breeding Apostlebird (Struthidea cinerea). Emu 114, 206–221.
The vocal repertoire of the cooperatively breeding Apostlebird (Struthidea cinerea).CrossRef |

Wilden, I., Herzel, H., Peters, G., and Tembrock, G. (1998). Subharmonics, biphonation, and deterministic chaos in mammal vocalization. Bioacoustics 9, 171–196.
Subharmonics, biphonation, and deterministic chaos in mammal vocalization.CrossRef |

Young, C., Browning, L., Savage, J. L., Griffith, S. C., and Russell, A. F. (2013). No evidence for deception over allocation to brood care in a cooperative bird. Behavioral Ecology 24, 70–81.
No evidence for deception over allocation to brood care in a cooperative bird.CrossRef |


Export Citation

View Altmetrics