Squirrels listen to birds’ verses to understand the presence of predators

An interesting discovery was made by a group of researchers, which concerns the relationship between squirrels and birds. According to the researchers, who published their work on PLOS, the grey squirrels feel reassured by the “chatter” of the nearby singing birds, verses that in a way makes them feel safer.

Birds usually “sing” to communicate various simple basic signals, such as the absence of danger or sharing their position. Obviously squirrels have learned these same lines to understand in turn that there is no imminent threat. Researchers have analyzed in particular 54 oriental grey squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) present in various green areas of Ohio.

They then alternately reproduced recordings to simulate a threat, specifically the cry of a red-tailed falcon (Buteo jamaicensis) and the verses of the birds themselves. This park is a common predator for both species. At the same time, they monitored the behavior of the squirrels.

When listening to the recorded verse of the hawk, all the squirrels showed the typical behavior they adopt in the presence of predators, such as immobility, the look up or the flight. However, when the researchers also started recording the different birds, the squirrels themselves performed fewer “vigilance” behaviors, basically showing that they felt a little more “relaxed.”

This is the demonstration that squirrels themselves use the birds’ verses to understand the presence and imminence of danger.

The research was carried out by Marie V. Lilly, Emma C. Lucore and Keith A. Tarvin.



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