Successful honey-hunters know how to communicate with wild birds

January 23, 2024

The experiments showed that honeyguides in the Kidero Hills, Tanzania are over three times more likely to cooperate with people giving the local Hadza whistle, than people giving the ‘foreign’ Yao trill and grunt. And the honeyguides in the Niassa Special Reserve, Mozambique are almost twice as likely to cooperate in response to the local Yao trill and grunt, than the ‘foreign’ Hadza whistle. The phenomenon seems to be self-reinforcing: honeyguides learn to recognise that a specific call indicates a good honey-hunting partner, and humans are more successful in attracting the birds if they use this call. The researchers compare this to different human languages, in which the sounds of words are arbitrary, but everyone has agreed on their meaning. Spottiswoode added: “Just as humans across the world communicate using a range of different local languages, people across Africa communicate with honeyguide birds using a range of different local sounds.”Like language, these culturally determined calls convey an underlying meaning – signalling a desire to partner with the bird to find honey.

The experiments showed that honeyguides in the Kidero Hills, Tanzania are over three times more likely to cooperate with people giving the local Hadza whistle, than people giving the ‘foreign’ Yao trill and grunt. And the honeyguides in the Niassa Special Reserve, Mozambique are almost twice as likely to cooperate in response to the local Yao trill and grunt, than the ‘foreign’ Hadza whistle.

The phenomenon seems to be self-reinforcing: honeyguides learn to recognise that a specific call indicates a good honey-hunting partner, and humans are more successful in attracting the birds if they use this call.

People who use a different call are less likely to attract a bird to guide them to the honey – so it’s in their interests to stick to the sounds used locally.

“Once these local cultural traditions are established, it pays for everyone – birds and humans – to conform to them, even if the sounds themselves are arbitrary,” said joint lead author Dr Brian Wood, an anthropologist at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The researchers compare this to different human languages, in which the sounds of words are arbitrary, but everyone has agreed on their meaning.

Spottiswoode added: “Just as humans across the world communicate using a range of different local languages, people across Africa communicate with honeyguide birds using a range of different local sounds.”

Like language, these culturally determined calls convey an underlying meaning – signalling a desire to partner with the bird to find honey.

The source of this news is from University of Cambridge

Popular in Research

1

Feb 12, 2024

DTU Scientist Co-Authors International Paper on COVID-19

2

Feb 19, 2024

Two Simple Words May Help Decide Immigration Case Before the High Court

3

4 days ago

AI agents help explain other AI systems

4

Feb 13, 2024

AI innovation helps create authentic, pitch perfect vocals

5

Feb 10, 2024

Engineers to develop robot maintenance crews in space

Biden defends strikes on Houthis, vows to respond again

21 hours ago

IDF wipes out Hezbollah commander on embattled Lebanon streets in dramatic footage

21 hours ago

Donald Trump advertises on MSNBC in New Hampshire to slow Haley

2 hours from now

Japan's Nikkei crosses 39,000 as robust earnings, investor-friendly measures drive risk-on sentiment

5 days ago

NYU Gallatin Galleries Presents ‘In Loving Memory,’ an exhibition of work by Khidr Joseph Feb. 1—29, 2024

1 day ago

NYU Wagner Labor Initiative Explores Role of State and Local Government in Workers’ Rights

1 day ago