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Title: Nuthatches vary their alarm calls based upon the source of the eavesdropped signals

Animal alarm calls can contain detailed information about a predator’s threat, and heterospecific eavesdropping on these signals creates vast communication networks. While eavesdropping is common, this indirect public information is often less reliable than direct predator observations. Red-breasted nuthatches (Sitta canadensis) eavesdrop on chickadee mobbing calls and vary their behaviour depending on the threat encoded in those calls. Whether nuthatches propagate this indirect information in their own calls remains unknown. Here we test whether nuthatches propagate direct (high and low threat raptor vocalizations) or indirect (high and low threat chickadee mobbing calls) information about predators differently. When receiving direct information, nuthatches vary their mobbing calls to reflect the predator’s threat. However, when nuthatches obtain indirect information, they produce calls with intermediate acoustic features, suggesting a more generic alarm signal. This suggests nuthatches are sensitive to the source and reliability of information and selectively propagate information in their own mobbing calls.

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Author(s) / Creator(s):
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Publisher / Repository:
Nature Publishing Group
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Nature Communications
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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