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, 11 February 2018

Great spotted woodpeckers may recognize each other individually by drumming rhythms


February 7, 2018, Public Library of Science

The drum rolls of great spotted woodpeckers may be used to identify individuals, according to a study published February 7, 2018 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Michal Budka from Adam Mickiewicz University, Poland, and colleagues.

Many birds make individually-specific calls or songs that allow them to be recognized by others of the same species; for example, female zebra finches can identify their mates, and king penguin chicks can identify find their parents out of the several thousand birds in a colony. In addition, some birds make other kinds of sounds that signal their sex; for example, oriental white storks clatter their mandibles together in a sex-specific fashion, and male common snipes make a drumming sound with their tail feathers.

Woodpeckers drum with their bills, pecking rapidly and repetitively to produce a series of drum rolls. Both male and female woodpeckers use drumming to attract mates and deter rivals. Budka and colleagues investigated the role of drumming in the great spotted woodpecker(Dendrocopos major), the most common woodpecker species in the Western Palearctic. The researchers recorded drumming of 41 great spotted woodpeckers (26 males, nine females, and six unsexed individuals), and compared the length of intervals between strokes as well as the number of strokes within a drumming roll.

The researchers found that the intervals between strokes were shorter in males than in females. But they concluded that while temporal patterns of the woodpeckers' drumming may provide a clue to sex determination, they are not enough to distinguish the sexes unambiguously.

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