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FEATURE ARTICLE

The Complex Call of the Carolina Chickadee

What can the chick-a-dee call teach us about communication and language?

Todd Freeberg, Jeffrey Lucas, Indrikis Krams

Chick-a-dee calls—used by chickadees and other members of the avian family Paridae to communicate with other members of their group—are among the most complex bird calls, involving several discrete note types. The calls have the potential to convey a great deal of information through variation in the underlying note composition. What messages might variation in the call communicate? How might these calls have evolved? Predation pressure, habitat constraints and complex social groups, including those containing more than one species, may all contribute to an explanation of the benefits the calls might provide.


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