Bird pairs coordinate their song and dance to get the message across

By Brooks Hays  |  Dec. 18, 2017 at 11:31 AM
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Dec. 18 (UPI) -- New research shows bird pairs that coordinate their singing and wing movements are better able to get their message across.

Just as facial cues and hand gestures make human speech more intelligible, the movements of animals can enhance their vocal message.

Previous studies have shown vocal coordination between animal pairs increases the clarity and impact of their vocal display. But scientists haven't closely examined the coordination of song and dance among birds.

Pairs of rufous-naped wrens, Campylorhynchus rufinucha, are known to link a variety of wing and body movements with their song duets. Scientists have hypothesized that song-and-dance coordination can help pairs better synch their displays and thus improve the efficacy of their message.

In a new study, researchers in Australia and Poland studied the song and dance routines of the Australian magpie-lark, Grallina cyanoleuca.

The biologists paired duet recordings with robotic models capable of various wing movements and measured the response behaviors of live birds. Researchers varied the coordination of the song and dance components.

Birds were more likely to respond to and fly toward a pair with audio-visual coordination. Uncoordinated duets were less effective at communicating the intended message.

Lead researcher, Paweł Ręk, a biologist at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poland, detailed his work in the journal Behavioral Ecology.

"Multimodality of signals can be beneficial for the signaller as well as for the receiver because there are many ways through which one signal component can improve the efficacy of the other," Ręk said in a news release.

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