Sparrows eavesdrop to distinguish good neighbours from bad

October 21st, 2010 - 2:50 pm ICT by ANI  

London, Oct 21 (ANI): Scientists have found that sparrows can identify troublemakers by eavesdropping on them.

A study has shown that the birds can tell, “who started it” in a neighbouring squabble over territory, even if they are not directly involved and also respond aggressively to the songs of the intruders but not to those of the “victims”.

The North American birds are known to fight fiercely to establish territories.

Scientists at the University of Washington in Seattle, US, used recorded calls to stage territorial disputes between two birds.

They played the songbird squabble so that neighbouring sparrows were able to hear it and studied the birds’ reactions.

After hearing this “dispute”, the sparrows reacted aggressively only when they heard the broadcasted calls of the intruding bird while they did not react to the victim’s song.

“This was not simply increased aggression to any call they overheard recently in an aggressive situation. They seem to be able to infer that the victim is not at fault,” BBC news quoted Caglar Akcay, a graduate student, as saying.

This is the first time researchers have observed songbirds eavesdropping on their neighbours to determine how much of a threat they pose.

The findings are published in the journal Animal Behaviour. (ANI)

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