Oz birds lure mates with ’scary movie effect’

January 19th, 2011 - 6:27 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Jan 19 (ANI): Have your ever used a horror film to bring your date closer? Well, a new study has revealed that Australian birds use the same ’scary movie effect’ to attract female attention, by hitchhiking mating signals onto the calls of predators.

Male splendid fairy-wrens, a sexually promiscuous small bird native to Australia, are known to sing a special song each time they hear the call of one of their predators, the butcherbirds.

New research from scientists at the University of Chicago has revealed that this seemingly dangerous behavior actually serves as a call to potential mates - a flirtation using fear.

The study involved painstaking field research playing sound clips to splendid fairy wrens at a conservation center in Southern Australia. Experiments determined that the “vocal hitchhiking” of male birds is a courtship behavior that uses predator calls to grab the attention of female birds.

“We have shown that females do, in fact, become especially attentive after hearing butcherbird calls,” said Emma Greig, PhD, first author of the study and currently a postdoctoral researcher at Cornell University. “So, it seems that male fairy-wrens may be singing when they know they will have an attentive audience, and, based on the response of females, this strategy may actually work!”

The study has been published in the journal Behavioral Ecology. (ANI)

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