What’s one way that you might study bird calls and communication, especially around alarm calls? Try revealing a predator in the forest… but not just any kind of predator. A robo-predator.
…the researchers employ roboraptors—taxidermied hawks and owls with robotic moving parts. On a sunny spring day last May at the Cornell Lab’s Sapsucker Woods headquarters in Upstate New York, [University of Montana researcher Erick] Greene pressed the button on a modified garage door opener to drop a cloth curtain and reveal an animatronic Eastern Screech-Owl. Left to right, the roboraptor slowly swiveled its head (not unlike the mechanical children at Disney World who sing “It’s a Small World”). A pair of Tufted Titmice descended down the boughs of a nearby tree immediately, scolding all the way. Chickadees soon joined the protest to take turns dive-bombing the owl until the curtain went back up and the show was over. All the while, an array of microphones hidden in the underbrush captured every uttered sound, adding to Greene’s storehouse of alarm-call data.
Read more at AllAboutBirds.org: Look out! The Backyard Bird Alarm Call Network.
Next, watch The silent flight superpower of a stealthy predator: The Owl and more communication, including Decoding the language of Prairie Dogs.