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The function of three main call types in common cuckoo

Xia, Canwei and Deng, Zhuqing and Lloyd, Huw and Moller, Anders Pape and Zhao, Xiaomeng and Zhang, Yanyun (2019) The function of three main call types in common cuckoo. Ethology, 125 (9). pp. 652-659. ISSN 0179-1613

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Abstract

Acoustic signals play a key role in shaping the relationships in birds. Common cuckoos Cuculus canorus are known to produce various call types, but the function of these calls has only been studied recently. Here, we used a combination of field recordings (conducted in 2017) and playback experiments (conducted in 2018) to investigate the functional significance of common cuckoo calls. We found significant differences in the characteristics between male two-element ‘cu-coo’ and three-element ‘cu-cu-coo’ calls, with these two call types being used in different contexts. The three-element male ‘cu-cu-coo’ calls were associated with females emitting their ‘bubbling’ call. Playback experiments revealed that both males and females exhibit stronger responses to playing female “bubbling” calls than with the calls of Eurasian sparrowhawk (Accipter nisus) serving as a control suggesting a significant intraspecific communication function for this call type. However, we did not find any evidence to support mate attraction in male calls, as females were not stimulated by playback of male calls compared to sparrowhawk calls in the control group.

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