Information transfer during mobbing: call rate is more important than the number of callers in a southern temperate passerine

Gustavo J. Fernández, Mylène Dutour, Mariana E. Carro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Abstract: Many bird species vary their alarm calls according to the level of risk they face and this information can be used by receivers to respond to the mobbing event. Recent studies have also found that the number of callers can play an important role in the decision of subsequent individuals to join a mobbing event. We conducted a playback experiment to assess if differences in calling rate and number of callers elicit different behavioural responses in the house wren (Troglodytes aedon chilensis). We broadcast the alarm call of either one or two individuals, at different calling rates along the breeding season. We found that house wrens responded more frequently during playback of alarm calls at higher rates than during playback of calls at lower rates. However, focal individuals moved closer to the speaker when calls were played back at lower rates. There were no differences in the response of house wrens when we broadcast the calls of one or two individuals. These results suggest that call rates are an important element in the communication of danger in the house wren, rather than caller number. Significance statement: Mobbing is an anti-predator strategy observed in many species, and often involves the use of calls that can communicate to conspecifics and heterospecifics about the threat of the predator. Understanding the factors and cues that receivers use to respond is an important element in understanding communication between individuals. We studied the role of call rate and number of callers in the behavioural response to mobbing calls of individuals in the house wren during the breeding season. Using a playback experiment, we show that individuals respond more often to calls played at a high rate, regardless of the number of callers. House wrens' call rates vary according to the level of perceived risk, so our results show that receivers use this information to respond to mobbing calls.

Original languageEnglish
Article number78
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2023


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