Exploring possible functions of vocalisations in the Torresian Crow Corvus orru
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The vocal behaviour of the Corvidae (crows and ravens) is known to be complex and extremely diverse, although detailed studies of vocalisations within the family have been limited to only a few species. This study describes a pilot investigation into the potential functions of the vocalisations of Torresian Crows Corvus orru in suburban Brisbane, Queensland, using playback to experimentally assess whether the apparent function of four calls determined during an earlier study were appropriate. These calls had been given the generalised function of contact, mobbing alarm, flee, and juvenile begging. Ten trials (using different recordings of each call type) were broadcast to target groups of wild Crows and the proportion of Crows reacting as predicted was determined. We found that the purported function of three of the calls (contact, flee and begging calls) had been appropriately described, with a clear majority of the audience birds responding as predicted. Playback of the mobbing alarm call, however, resulted in no birds responding as predicted, indicating that the inferred function had been incorrectly attributed. The results gained from this study can be used to investigate further details of the possible function of vocalisations of the many other calls within the Torresian Crow communication system.
Australian Field Ornithology