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The Kid Should See This

Roboraptors and the Alarm Call Network

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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 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.

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