Black-Capped Chickadees: Tweet Alarm Calls

Nuthatches Heed Chickadees’ Warning Calls—but They’re Wary of False Alarms


Health Editor’s Note:  Unlike humans who use and live by tweets no matter their inanity/insanity, such as Trump, the red-breasted nuthatch only reacts to chickadee alarm calls after a fact check…..Carol

Black-capped chickadees have a vocabulary of 50 different vocalizations, including their namesake alarm call: chicka-dee-dee-dee. The longer the call lasts, the more dangerous the predator they’ve spotted.

Another small songbird, the red-breasted nuthatch, recognizes this alert, but a new study in Nature Communications shows that they don’t take the chickadees’ calls at face value. When a nuthatch hears a chickadee cry out, it will start to sing its own alarm call. But until they hear another nuthatch reply to confirm the predator sighting, they don’t take wing.

Erick Greene, a University of Montana ecologist and co-author of the new study, explains it’s kind of like the nuthatches are saying: “We’re on high alert and we got it from the chickadees that there’s something out there, but we haven’t verified it,” he tells National Geographic’s Brian Gutierrez.

In 2007, Greene first found that nuthatches were eavesdropping on chickadee conversations by hiding speakers at the bases of trees and playing chickadee alarm calls, per the paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Chickadees and nuthatches are found together throughout most of the country. And in fact, they actually form winter flocks together,” biologist Chris Templeton of Pacific University, …..

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