October 19, 2011
How deep and for how long do penguins dive? Why might nesting songbirds eavesdrop on chipmunk chatter? These are two of the hottest questions being tackled by ornithologists this year.
Publishing recently in the Journal of Animal Ecology, Quinn Emmering and Kenneth Schmidt of Texas Tech University in Lubbock examined the role of eavesdropping in informationgathering by songbirds. In recent years, scientists have discovered that songbirds eavesdrop on neighbouring birds, even other species, to learn new songs, identify territorial intruders and avoid predators. Emmering and Schmidt focused on how two ground-nesting songbirds, the veery and the ovenbird, utilize information sources when selecting their breeding habitats and territories so that their nests do not become victimized by one of the most common nest predators in eastern North America: the eastern chipmunk. Yes, it's that adorable little critter made famous by Chip and Dale of Disney fame. They regularly scarf down bird eggs, nestlings and fledglings. Watch your finger the next time you offer one a peanut at a camping ground.