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.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Squatting Owls Eavesdrop On Prairie Dogs

Cat Ferguson, ISNS Contributor | January 17, 2014 01:52am ET

Western burrowing owl, prairie dogs, animal communication
(ISNS) -- The term "keystone species" was made for prairie dogs. These charismatic critters build vast underground towns across the plains, creating housing for themselves and many other animals. One of the squatters is the Western burrowing owl, a tiny insectivore that makes its home on the outskirts of prairie dog colonies.
New research suggests that the owls don't just gain a free home from the prairie dogs, but they also eavesdrop on the prairie dogs' sophisticated alarm calls, which scientists have described as a rudimentary form of grammar. The owls, less than a foot high, sneak tips about lurking predators from their highly vocal housemates, according to a study in next month’s Ethology

Burrowing owls tend to seek out active prairie dog colonies in Colorado, where the study was conducted.

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