Friday 21 August 2009

Baby bird communication (I)

Last month my sister brought a baby duck to my mother. Its name is Patxi (pronounced [patʃi]), and apparently what he (or she, but I will say he until we know what he/she is) loves most in this world is... tomatoes.

He probably thinks he is a human, as he has always been among humans. So, when there are no humans around he starts feeling scared of this dangerous world, and asks for help. In his language "help me, I am alone!" is translated into a siren-like shrill sound, while "I am OK and happy with you" is a normal ducky chirp.

This gave the idea to check for this experiment:

If a baby duck (grown up among humans) is left alone, he starts making a siren-like shrill sound to ask for help

Apparently this is quite simple. As any experiment should have at least some objective measurements, I timed the siren-like sound.

You can see the result in the following video.

I don't mention timing in the video, but you can see easily with a stopwatch that Patxi used his siren-like sound for about 24 seconds in four sessions.

Then I found something interesting: there is an exception to this. When Patxi is home, he does not feel scared of being alone (for him home means the plastic blue box). Even if I leave, he just calls mummy for a few seconds (about six seconds) and then he stops and continues doing whatever he was doing before (usually just chirping, pecking at things or... ehm... leaving his droppings around). Everything is explained in the second video:

As I show at the end of the video, funnily enough both places are in close proximity to each other.

So, by way of conclusion, we can make the following diagram:

I repeated the experiment several times, and many times there was not even "panic interval" when I left Patxi alone at home.

There is another experiment about baby bird communication I made. But that will be for the next entry.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

wow that is really interesting and in the first video you can notice patxi's distress as soon as you leave by the way he moves and looks around a lot.

ps: he is very cute