Syntactical Organization of the Gargle Vocalization of the Black-capped Chickadee, Parus atricapillus

Authors

  • Millicent Sigler Ficken,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Biological Sciences and Field Station, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee
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      Ficken, M. S. & Popp, J. W. 1992: Syntactical organization of the gargle vocalization of the black-capped chickadee, Parus atricapillus. Ethology 91, 156–168.

  • James W. Popp

    1. Department of Biological Sciences and Field Station, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee
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      Ficken, M. S. & Popp, J. W. 1992: Syntactical organization of the gargle vocalization of the black-capped chickadee, Parus atricapillus. Ethology 91, 156–168.


Department of Biological Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI 53201, U.S.A.

Abstract

The gargle is a complex call of the black-capped chickadee Parus atricapillus associated with agonistic interactions. A large sample of calls was recorded from five sites in southeastern Wisconsin. Three sites were near one another and the other two with a different dialect pattern were more distant (all sites were within 15 km of each other). A typical call consists of about 6 notes selected from an array of about 15 different note-types that are shared among individuals in the same population. Note-types are given in many combinations, and any individual may deliver many different variations. Analysis of two- and three-note sequences shows a syntactical organization with certain note-types much more likely to precede or follow than others. In some cases linkage between note-types was nearly complete. Some differences occurred among individuals and sites, but general organizational rules were similar. One effect on ordering was acoustical structure of the notes. Higher pitched, shorter duration notes were more likely at the beginning than the end of the call which often consisted of trills. Organization of the gargle was compared to that of the chick-a-dee call of the same species. Similarities include recombinant properties, general acoustic rules and syntax. A major difference may be that in chick-a-dee calls various note combinations constituting a call have different meanings, while the various note combinations comprising an individual's repertoire of gargles may be functionally equivalent.

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