Jackdaw nestlings can discriminate between conspecific calls but do not beg specifically to their parents

E.C.A. Zandberg, J.W. Jolles, N.J. Boogert, A. Thornton

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Abstract

The ability to recognize other individuals may provide substantial benefits to young birds, allowing them to target their begging efforts appropriately, follow caregivers after fledging, and establish social relationships later in life. Individual recognition using vocal cues is likely to play an important role in the social lives of birds such as corvids that provision their young postfledging and form stable social bonds, but the early development of vocal recognition has received little attention. We used playback experiments on jackdaws, a colonial corvid species, to test whether nestlings begin to recognize their parents’ calls before fledging. Although the food calls made by adults when provisioning nestlings were individually distinctive, nestlings did not beg preferentially to their parents’ calls. Ten-dayold nestlings not only responded equally to the calls of their parents, neighboring jackdaws whose calls they were likely to overhear regularly and unfamiliar jackdaws from distant nest boxes, but also to the calls of rooks, a sympatric corvid species. Responses to rooks declined substantially with age, but 20- and 28-day-old nestlings were still equally likely to produce vocal and postural begging responses to parental and nonparental calls. This is unlikely to be due to an inability to discriminate between calls, as older nestlings did respond more quickly and with greater vocal intensity to familiar calls, with some indication of discrimination between parents and neighbors. These results suggest that jackdaws develop the perceptual and cognitive resources to discriminate between conspecific calls before fledging but may not benefit from selective begging responses. Key words: begging, Corvidae, Corvus monedula, food calls, parental care, social cognition, vocal recognition.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)565-573
JournalBehavioral Ecology
Volume25
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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Keywords

  • food-caching corvids
  • vocal recognition
  • corvus-monedula
  • gymnorhinus-cyanocephalus
  • offspring recognition
  • tactical deception
  • provisioning calls
  • crows
  • chicks
  • young

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