Distress Calling by Woodland Birds: Seasonal Patterns, Individual Consistency and the Presence of Conspecifics


  • P. W. Greig-Smith

    Corresponding author
    1. Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Agricultural Science Service, Worplesdon Laboratory, Worplesdon, Surrey
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Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Worplesdon Laboratory, Worplesdon, Surrey, U.K.

Abstract and Summary

Woodland birds of 20 species were captured in mist-nets in winter (September to February) and summer (April—August) and scored for whether or not they made distress calls while being handled. Birds of only two species showed significant tendencies to be consistent in calling or failing to call when recaptured, but most species had weak trends in. the same direction. Some species changed seasonally in the tendency to call, but there was no general pattern. In winter, but not summer, the incidence of calling was correlated across species with an index of the number of conspecifics likely to hear the call, but there was no comparable correlation with variations within species. In the long-tailed tit, calling was associated with struggling, and with eyelid colour, which reflects a bird's mood. This implies that calling may be directed at a captor as well as at flock companions.