As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Parrots mimic to address individuals

Parrots mimic the calls of others in order to "start a conversation", according to scientists.

Researchers observed the behaviour of orange-fronted conures: parakeets found from western Mexico to Costa Rica.

The scientists found that the birds responded faster and more frequently when other birds imitated their calls.

The authors suggest that the parrots may have developed their impressive mimicry to be able to address individuals within a flock.

The findings, by Dr Thorsten Balsby from the University of Aarhus, Denmark, and colleagues from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, are published in the journal PLOS One.

According to Mr Balsby, the research was inspired by a previous study that suggested that spectacled parrotlets (Forpus conspicillatus) use different calls to effectively "name" individuals in a flock.

But in the wild the orange-fronted conures (Aratinga canicularis) live in what researchers describe as "network environments" - dynamic flocks with multiple birds calling simultaneously.

"Such a naming system would probably not work, as each individual potentially encounters hundreds of birds on a weekly basis," explained Dr Balsby.

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