Differential responses to gosling distress calls in parental and non-parental Greylag Geese

Abstract

The pre-fledging survival of Greylag goslings (Anser anser) is known to be influenced by parenting style and particularly parental vigilance. Visual and acoustic cues may be important in parental vigilance: if vision is blocked, for example in a highly structured habitat, acoustic recognition of the goslings by their parents would be beneficial. We confronted parental and non-parental Greylag Geese with playbacks of gosling distress calls and analyzed their behavioral responses. Parental geese showed a significant increase in their vigilance behavior during and after playbacks while geese without offspring showed increased comfort behavior. In a permutated discriminant function analysis, we found no family-specific vocal cues in gosling calls, and potential call familiarity did not have any effect on parental behavioral responses. Vigilance in families was further influenced by the number of goslings and gosling age, with increased vigilance when the number of goslings was high, and when goslings were younger. Parental females were more vigilant than parental males, suggesting differences in parental investment between males and females. We conclude that visual cues may be more important in offspring-related vigilance than calls, which elicited different behavioral responses depending on the social class of the geese.

Zusammenfassung

Reaktionsunterschiede auf Weinlaute in Grauganspaaren mit und ohne Nachwuchs Das Überleben von Gösseln der Graugans (Anser anser) vor dem Flüggewerden wird bekanntermaßen beeinflusst vom Erziehungsverhalten der Eltern, und im Besonderen von ihrer Wachsamkeit. Visuelle und akustische Hinweise können von Bedeutung sein für die elterliche Wachsamkeit: wenn die Sicht behindert ist, beispielsweise in einem dicht bewachsenen Lebensraum, wäre die akustische Erkennung der Gössel durch die Eltern von Vorteil. Graugänse mit und ohne Nachwuchs wurden mit Weinlauten von Gösseln konfrontiert und ihre Verhaltensantworten wurden analysiert. Graugänse mit Gösseln zeigten einen signifikanten Anstieg in ihrer Wachsamkeit während und nach dem Abspielen der Weinlaute, wohingegen Graugänse ohne Gössel verstärkt Komfortverhalten zeigten. In einer permutierten Diskriminanzfunktionsanalyse fanden wir keine akustischen Hinweise auf Familienzugehörigkeit in den Rufen der Gössel, und eine potentielle Bekanntheit der Rufe hatte keinen Einfluss auf die Verhaltensantworten der Eltern. Die Wachsamkeit in den Familien wurde außerdem von der Anzahl und dem Alter der Gössel beeinflusst, sie waren wachsamer wenn sie mehr und jüngere Gössel hatten. Innerhalb der Familien waren die Weibchen wachsamer als die Männchen, was auf Unterschiede im Aufwand zwischen den Geschlechtern hindeutet. Wir schlussfolgern, dass für die Wachsamkeit in Bezug auf den Nachwuchs visuelle Signale von größerer Bedeutung sein könnten als Rufe, die je nach sozialer Klasse unterschiedliche Verhaltensantworten bewirkten.

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Acknowledgements

Sincere thanks are given to all the helping hands and people backstage who always make the difference between success and failure. In particular: Josef Hemetsberger for being the KLF’s constant source of goose wisdom, Gustav Meibauer for scaring away all disturbing subjects from the playback setup, and everyone who ever helped carrying the equipment. We thank Roger Mundry for providing the script for pDFA analysis. We also thank two anonymous referees for their valuable comments that improved the manuscript. For the permanent financial support of the Konrad Lorenz-Research Station we would like to thank the “Herzog von Cumberland Stiftung” and the “Verein der Förderer der Konrad Lorenz Forschungsstelle”. GS received funding by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) projects Y-366-B17 and W-1234-G17. AL was funded by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Science, Research and Economy (BMWFW, former BMWF) project SPA/03-005/Graugänse and DF by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) project P-21489-B17.

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Correspondence to Georgine Szipl.

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Communicated by S. Kipper.

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Loth, A., Frigerio, D., Kotrschal, K. et al. Differential responses to gosling distress calls in parental and non-parental Greylag Geese. J Ornithol 159, 401–412 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10336-017-1521-0

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Keywords

  • Greylag Geese
  • Anser anser
  • Distress calls
  • Vigilance behavior
  • Parental investment
  • Acoustic recognition