Do the squirrels and birds understand each other?

by on May 18, 2015 at 9:37 pm in Science | Permalink

Dr. Greene, working with a student, has also found that “squirrels understand ‘bird-ese,’ and birds understand ‘squirrel-ese.’ ” When red squirrels hear a call announcing a dangerous raptor in the air, or they see such a raptor, they will give calls that are acoustically “almost identical” to the birds, Dr. Greene said. (Researchers have found that eastern chipmunks are attuned to mobbing calls by the eastern tufted titmouse, a cousin of the chickadee.)

The titmice are in on it too.  The article has numerous further points of interest.

1 Ray Lopez May 18, 2015 at 10:52 pm

Animals are smarter than we give them credit for: they use tools (crows), understand their own and others language, pretty much everything humans do.

2 Ray Lopez May 18, 2015 at 10:56 pm

It’s well known for example that crows use crowbars to pry food from crevices. A good book for the birds is Noah Strycker’s “The Thing With Feathers”.

3 carlospln May 19, 2015 at 3:11 am

Echoing Ray Lopez, Tim Low’s ‘Where Song Began’ is excellent.

Who knew Australia was the birthplace of songbirds?

4 Brian Donohue May 19, 2015 at 1:59 pm

Animals are dumber than some people give them credit. Animal communication is not the same thing as human language.

5 carlospln May 19, 2015 at 6:09 pm

How in the world would you know?

6 ant1900 May 21, 2015 at 8:47 am

Because we eat them and not vice versa.

7 Brian Donohue May 21, 2015 at 2:51 pm

It’s not composed of arbitrary symbols.

8 Mark Thorson May 19, 2015 at 2:21 am

I used to spend a lot of time outdoors barbequing, and I did notice that when a hawk would show up the birds would start making and repeating alarm calls to each other. I was impressed with the interspecies cooperation. It makes sense that squirrels would be engaged with the same communication network.

9 Shane M May 19, 2015 at 3:44 am

Birds around my house make a ruckus, I’m assuming it’s their “there’s a human call” when I walk into the back yard. But the biggest ruckus I heard from the birds was when a turkey vulture was around. I guess it was what the article is calling a “mobbing” call. When I went out to look, smaller birds of various species where gathered around this turkey vulture that had landed on my roof, all making noisy calls. None were really attacking him, but the vulture was wary at all the birds massed around. They were clearly trying to annoy the vulture as a group.

10 Strick May 19, 2015 at 7:41 am

Prairie dogs and burrowing owls show similar cooperation. Actually, it doesn’t take much intelligence to learn that a particular noise, screech or bark, precedes an attack from a red hawk even if neither species really “understands” the other.

11 Mark May 19, 2015 at 8:50 am

We raise backyard chickens about 50 yards from the house and one day a raccoon approached the pen from the side opposite the house. As soon as the chickens began squawking, the dogs inside the house went crazy, as agitated as I have ever seen them.

12 Nils May 19, 2015 at 10:06 pm

Some birds have also gone a step further 🙂

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