PERCEPTION OF DISTRESS CALLS IN MALLARD DUCKLINGS (ANAS PLATYRHYNCHOS) by STEPHEN J. GAIONI and CHRISTOPHER S. EVANS') (Psychology Department, Washington University, St. Louis, MO 63130, U.S.A.) (With 8 Figures) (Acc. 1-II-1986) Introduction When a young mallard duckling is separated from its brood, or otherwise endangered, it gives an intense vocalization known as the distress call. The major function of this call is to alert the mother to the danger con- fronting the duckling. Mallard hens react to separation-induced distress calls either by amplifying their assembly calls, or by rapidly approaching the calling duckling. In addition to these effects on the mother, mallard duckling distress calls also have a strong effect on siblings (GAIONI, 1982; GAIONI et al., 1983). More specifically, when two or more ducklings are separated from the family unit, each duckling tends to inhibit its own vocalizing while its siblings are vocalizing, thus producing an alternating pattern of calling (see Fig. 1). Because ducklings do not approach one an- other's distress calls (COLLIAS, 1962), it is unlikely that this response pat- tern plays a role in guiding the calling birds back to one another (e.g., BAILEY, 1978). Several lines of evidence, however, converge to suggest that
Behaviour – Brill
Published: Jan 1, 1986
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