Ventriloquist Birds

Certain bird species can project their voices in one direction while their beaks are pointed in another.  Jessica Yorzinski, a graduate student in animal behavior at UC Davis conducted a study with Gail Patricelli, professor of evolution and ecology, to see how birds use alarm calls. Yorzinski and Patricelli placed a ring of directional microphones around a bird cage to record songs from a variety of wild birds that were captured and then released. The birds were presented with a stuffed owl, and the researchers recorded how the birds reacted.

Most of the alarms calls were omni-directional, which could be useful in warning other birds of a predator in the vicinity. But some of the bird species -- juncos, warblers and finches -- demonstrated "an ability to focus their calls in the direction of the owl, so these calls could also function to warn off a predator."

Among the birds with this ability, some could sound the alarm in one direction while their heads were turned in a different direction, like a person talking out of the side of his mouth.

"It's not clear how they're accomplishing this," Yorzinski said.

Link via It's Animals

Photo of yellow-rumped warbler courtesy Stockphoto/Franck Leung

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