Here’s a piece of news that you can chatter about with your friends and colleagues. Just like robots in the human world that understand various languages and interpret the meanings accordingly, it has been found by scientists that even birds are able to detect danger just by listening to the chirps and tweets of other birds. So for example, these birds may listen to a neighboring bird’s distress call, and learn to flee. The studies have shown that the birds can link other birds’ sounds with danger, without even learning their call.
The subject of the researchers’ testing was the fairy wren, a small songbird from Australia. Andrew Radford, biologist at the University of Bristol, who co-authored the study, wandered in Canberra’s Australian National Botanic Gardens, along with colleagues from the Australian National University, with customized ‘tweeter speakers’, scouring for fairy wrens in solitude. The researchers held two recorded voices: the distress cry of allopatric chestnut-rumped thornbill, and the other of a computer generated voice titled ‘buzz’. They played these sounds, where at first after listening to them, the 16 wrens under study had no reaction. The second time, they played one sound to each half of the birds in conjunction with known distress calls, including the fairy wrens’ own cry. They tested their theory after three days, where they found that 12 out of 16 birds fled at every playback, while the remaining four fled at two-thirds of the playbacks. The research points to the fact that ability to learn by associating sounds with meanings actually makes sense.
Meanwhile, an experiment at the Duke University has put up light on the fact how birds can spot the difference between colors with different shades. Using a bird known as ‘zebra finch’, the researchers found that these birds partition colors ranging from red to orange hues, just like human beings, due to a phenomenon known as categorical perception. The research involved showing the birds paper discs, with some two-toned and some solid colored. The two-toned discs had a millet seed underneath. What the researchers found here was that with regards to the color spectrum, these birds were more capable at differentiating between two colors from opposite ends of the spectra, in comparison to pairs from the same side. Researchers stated that this categorical perception, in general, may be a cognitive shortcut for animals in making tough decisions regarding limited or ambiguous information.