, 95:981 | Cite as

Mourning dove (Zenaida macroura) wing-whistles may contain threat-related information for con- and hetero-specifics

  • Seth W. Coleman
Short Communication


Distinct acoustic whistles are associated with the wing-beats of many doves, and are especially noticeable when doves ascend from the ground when startled. I thus hypothesized that these sounds may be used by flock-mates as cues of potential danger. To test this hypothesis, I compared the responses of mourning doves (Zenaida macroura), northern cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis), and house sparrows (Passer domesticus) to audio playbacks of dove ‘startle wing-whistles’, cardinal alarm calls, dove ‘nonstartle wing-whistles’, and sparrow ‘social chatter’. Following playbacks of startle wing-whistles and alarm calls, conspecifics and heterospecifics startled and increased vigilance more than after playbacks of other sounds. Also, the latency to return to feeding was greater following playbacks of startle wing-whistles and alarm calls than following playbacks of other sounds. These results suggest that both conspecifics and heterospecifics may attend to dove wing-whistles in decisions related to antipredator behaviors. Whether the sounds of dove wing-whistles are intentionally produced signals warrants further testing.


Animal communication Alarm calls Anti-predator behavior Sonation 



Thanks to K. Bostwick, D. Lank, and several anonymous reviewers for constructive comments on previous versions of the manuscript. S.W.C. is funded by an individual National Research Service Award from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, National Institutes of Health, USA. All experiments described here comply with state and federal animal care and use protocols.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyTexas A and M UniversityCollege StationUSA
  2. 2.Centro de Investigación Científica de las Huastecas “Aguazarca”CalnaliMexico

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