Who doesn’t like a nice, tightly sung duet? Well, you might not, if you were a bird called a magpie lark, from Australia, and you heard a couple of other magpie larks singing a highly precise duet. That’s because well sung duets indicate to other species members that the singing duo is working as a coordinated team to defend territory. That’s according to research published in the June 5th issue of the journal Current Biology.
Other animals do similar things. Lions, chimps and wolves roar and howl in choruses to tell rivals that they’re a big group. The magpie larks make their stand with some complex rhythms. One bird sings the first two notes, and the second bird, here sounding like it’s a bit farther away, answers with a quick retort. (Bird sounds play.) Weaker teams than the one you just heard overlap or leave gaps between notes. The team’s singing improves the longer they work together. Which may also be a marker for their effectiveness as a team.