Perception of Vocal Tract Resonances by Whooping Cranes Grus americana

Authors

  • W. Tecumseh Fitch,

    1. Fitch, W. T. & Kelley, J. P. 2000: Perception of vocal tract resonances by whooping cranes Grus americana. Ethology 106, 559–574.
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  • J. Patrick Kelley

    1. Fitch, W. T. & Kelley, J. P. 2000: Perception of vocal tract resonances by whooping cranes Grus americana. Ethology 106, 559–574.
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Corresponding author: W. Tecumseh Fitch, Department of Organismic & Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, 33 Kirkland St. Rm, 982, Cambridge, MA 02138 USA. E-mail: tec@wjh.harvard.edu

Abstract

Although formants (vocal tract resonances) can often be observed in avian vocalizations, and several bird species have been shown to perceive formants in human speech sounds, no studies have examined formant perception in birds’ own species-specific calls. We used playbacks of computer-synthesized crane calls in a modified habituation—dishabituation paradigm to test for formant perception in whooping cranes (Grus americana). After habituating birds to recordings of natural contact calls, we played a synthesized replica of one of the habituating stimuli as a control to ensure that the synthesizer worked adequately; birds dishabituated in only one of 13 cases. Then, we played the same call with its formant frequencies shifted. The birds dishabituated to the formant-shifted calls in 10 out of 12 playbacks. These data suggest that cranes perceive and attend to changes in formant frequencies in their own species-specific vocalizations, and are consistent with the hypothesis that formants can provide acoustic cues to individuality and body size.

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