Do the squirrels and birds understand each other?

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.


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

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".

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

Who knew Australia was the birthplace of songbirds?

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

How in the world would you know?

Because we eat them and not vice versa.

It's not composed of arbitrary symbols.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Some birds have also gone a step further :)

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