The length and spacing of woodpecker drum rolls varies enough to tell woodpeckers apart—which could be useful to conservation biologists. Christopher Intagliata reports.
Humans can recognize each other by voice alone. I sound different from other 60-Second Science reporters, for example. In fact, lots of nonhuman animals, of all types, use voices to distinguish familiar individuals…including frogs, fish, lemurs, and penguins.
And that unique audio fingerprint extends to a sound you may have heard in the forest on occasion: <<woodpecker drumming>>...the drumming of a woodpecker.
Researchers recorded multiple drum rolls, <<woodpecker drumming>> from 41 great spotted woodpeckers—colorful red, white and black birds—living in Polish forests. They then used audio software to analyze them.
And they found that the length of the drumrolls, and the spacing between beats varied enough from bird to bird to tell the woodpeckers apart by drumming alone. The study is in the journal PLOS ONE. [Michał Budka et al., Vocal individuality in drumming in great spotted woodpecker—A biological perspective and implications for conservation]
The scientists say this fact might be useful to woodpeckers, in identifying each other. And to conservation biologists, trying to tease one bird from another in a recording, for example, to count individuals in a given area. The birds' head-banging could thus do away with that research headache.
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]