July 30, 2013 — Study shows birds eavesdrop on owls and change their dusk singing patterns to avoid becoming potential prey
If you hear an owl hooting at dusk, don't expect to catch the flute-like song of a Veery nearby. This North American thrush has probably also heard the hoots, and is singing much less to ensure that it does not become an owl's next meal.
Research by Kenneth Schmidt of Texas Tech University and Kara Loeb Belinsky of Arcadia University in the US, published in Springer's journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, provides insights into just how eavesdropping between predators and prey around dusk may be shaping communication in birds.. The study is the first to use the playback of recorded owl vocalization at sunset to study how birds change their behavior when potential predators are heard nearby.
Perching birds are generally more exposed during periods of extended singing. They are less vigilant and their song can often attract the attention of a predator to their fixed location. Despite this risk, dawn and dusk chorusing is a common trait. One such perching bird is the Veery (Catharus fuscescens), a common small brown and white thrush that is most active during the day. Its most common call is a harsh, descending "vee-er," from which the bird gets its name. This particularly vocal bird has a breezy, flute-like song, a pronounced dusk chorus and is often heard singing well after sunset.. This behavior could potentially expose the bird to predation.