2022 Student Research Conference:
35th Annual Student Research Conference

Effects of Vocal Mimicry of Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) Calls by Blue Jays (Cyanocitta cristata) on Competing Songbirds


Ashley V. Staab*, Luke C. Stock, and Kathryn Ashton
Dr. Joanna Hubbard, Faculty Mentor

The blue jay (Cyanocitta cristata) is a skilled vocal mimic, capable of replicating the calls of other bird species, most notably predatory birds. Among these is the Cooper’s hawk (Accipiter cooperii), a common bird-eating raptor of Missouri. While purposes of this vocal mimicry behavior have been proposed, their supporting evidence is anecdotal, and no single hypothesis has been unanimously supported. In this study, we examined whether vocal mimicry of the Cooper’s hawk by blue jays functionally scares other species away from a food source, thus reducing competition. We conducted a playback experiment over several months using real and mimicked predator calls at four set feeder stations, recording the reactions of feeding songbirds. We predict that there will be no statistically significant difference in songbird vigilance behavior between the mimicked and real Cooper's hawk calls, though birds will be more vigilant upon hearing both predator calls compared to the control calls.

Keywords: animal behavior, vocal mimicry, animal intelligence, competition, blue jay (Cyanocitta cristata), Cooper's hawk (Accipiter cooperii), songbirds, vigilance

Topic(s):Biology
Environmental Studies

Presentation Type: Oral Presentation

Session: 202-3
Location: SUB GEO A
Time: 10:45

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