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Data from: Great tits encode contextual information in their food and mobbing calls

Cite this dataset

Kalb, Nadine; Anger, Fabian; Randler, Christoph (2019). Data from: Great tits encode contextual information in their food and mobbing calls [Dataset]. Dryad.


The calling behavior of Paridae species (titmice, tits and chickadees) in a predator related context is well-studied. Parid species are known to alter call types, note composition or call duration according to predation risk. However, how these species encode information about a non-threatening context, such as food sources, has been subject to only few studies. Studies in Carolina chickadees (Poecile carolinensis) have shown that this species alters the ratio of C and D notes to encode information about the presence of food and/or the flight behavior of the signaler. This suggests that parids also use graded signals to encode information about non-predatory contexts. No study to date has directly compared the calls of a feeding context with those of a predation (i.e. mobbing) context. Hence, the aim of our study was to compare the calling behavior of these two situations in great tits (Parus major). We recorded and analyzed calls uttered at a feeder and compared them to calls uttered in front of taxidermy mounts of sparrowhawks (Accipiter nisus). In the food context, great tits reduced the number of D notes and increased the number of B, C and E notes compared to the mobbing context. Furthermore, tits produced calls with longer D notes and shorter intervals between D notes than in the mobbing context. This indicates that great tits use two mechanisms of graded signals (i.e. note type and acoustic structure of D calls) to inform conspecifics about the nature of a situation.

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