The Imitation Game: Research Reveals Animal Mimicry

Share Article

On Thursday, NPR dove into research on bird distress calls and animal mimicry, signaling a state of negotiation across multiple species. Bird-X takes a look at the studies and offers their experience using bird calls to offer insight.

Seagull, seagull, seagull poop, gull poop
"...it's not just one species yakking to members of its own kind. It's all these different species — and not just birds, but mammals as well. And they're all sharing information."

As part of their series “Close Listening: Decoding Nature Through Sound,” National Public Radio (NPR) has been providing information on scientists who study the natural world through recordings. On September 3rd, their broadcast showcased scientists who have used recorded bird calls to map out territories, and how the birds respond with distress calls to warn their families of any threats. Bird-X takes a look at the studies and offers their experience using bird calls for humane bird control purposes.

NPR focuses on ornithologist Ted Parker and his work in the tropics, recording bird calls and using his research to figure out how birds divide territories, and how to find out such information in hard-to-see areas.

The research provided some fascinating observations, and showed how other animals, such as squirrels and other small rodents, mimic these bird distress calls, creating an alarm system spanning throughout various animal territories.

Parker used recordings to provoke the birds, making them believe outsiders were invading and resulting in them defending their territory.

"If you are outside their territory and you play back a song," Parker said in 1991, "the birds will come up only to the edge of their territory." Perched on the boundary, he noticed, the pair would start to vocalize — in essence, shouting, "Hey, get out of here!"

Bird-X is no stranger when it comes to using bird calls to manipulate the behaviors of birds. Bird-X sonic devices utilize natural bird distress calls and predator calls to drive birds away from the area(s) needing protection. Alternatively, Bird-X ultrasonic devices emit frequencies out of the range of human hearing. While sonic devices make areas threatening and uninviting, ultrasonic devices act as behavior modifiers and encourage them to find other untreated areas to frequent.

The NPR story points out that, even after Parker’s death in 1993, scientists used the method of provoking birds with recordings in order to analyze their behaviors. Recently, biologist Erick Greene used the same tactics and found that the bird warnings had been adopted and passed along by different types of animals, like chipmunks, mice, and squirrels. In fact, the squirrels’ mimicry is almost perfect, despite the fact that they have a very different vocal apparatus from the one birds use.

"We've got these complex communication networks," explains Greene. "And it's not just one species yakking to members of its own kind. It's all these different species — and not just birds, but mammals as well. And they're all sharing information."

With sonic devices, Bird-X, Inc. has harnessed the communication patterns of birds in order to safely and effectively keep them out of areas that need protection.

Bird-X has spent over 50 years as the leading international brand of humane bird control solutions and is dedicated to protecting the health of humans, wildlife, and the environment in which we all live. The Chicago-based company manufactures a complete line of unique bird control products, including both sonic and ultrasonic bird control devices.

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Jean Burr
Bird-X, Inc.
+1 (312) 226-8454
Email >

Kelly Nelson
@BirdX_Inc
since: 01/2012
Follow >
Bird-X
since: 01/2012
Like >
Follow us on
Visit website