Alarm calls

To: Laurie Knight <>
Subject: Alarm calls
From: Paul McDonald <>
Date: Thu, 19 Dec 2013 10:26:59 +1100
Dear Laurie,

My earlier messages don't seem to be going onto Birding-Aus for some reason, 
but the below is exactly what we're doing, building on some earlier work, so 
stay tuned as they say...


On 18/12/2013, at 22:39, Laurie Knight wrote:

This discussion begs the question as to whether anyone has done a
sonagram analysis of the alarm calls to crack the code.

Regards, Laurie.

On 17/12/2013, at 9:02 PM, Allan Richardson wrote:

I too have noticed the difference in miner calls, although I think
there is another dynamic that is going as Eric mentions below.

Miners give more leisurely calls for soaring birds at a long
distance than they do to imminent danger. I agree with Eric on this
point in regard to the falcon's rapidity of arriving in the
proximity to miners, but I've also noticed very similar calls when
they are surprised by accipiters.

It appears to me that there is a definite escalation in call
intensity and frequency as a bird of prey approaches.

On a related note, there is s definite period of the year (late
summer and into autumn) when the birds clearly make mistakes about
danger. They give alarm calls for Needletails, aeroplanes and
sometime swallows and I think there is a correlation between the
numbers of young birds and these mistakes. A period of learning
alarm calls and recognising what is an identifiable threat if you

I've definitely noticed a marked difference in call between aerial
danger and danger on the ground, such as a lace monitor, cat or
human, similar to the vocabulary that vervet monkeys display. The
ground call is not the higher pitched call, it's the yaap, yaap,
yaap call.

Happy birding

Allan Richardson
Morisset NSW

On 17/12/2013, at 10:07 AM, 
<<>> wrote:

Hi All,

There are also different calls for sitting versus flying raptors of
the same species. What we hear as "urgency" greatly increases when
a Hobby gets off its perch and starts raking the 'burbs. Mick I
agree there seems a very high level of urgency relating to hobbies,
and I think this may be because they have a habit of flying rapidly
over the suburbs/tree tops trying to flush things. Everything gets
very suddenly scared. You can definitely track a Hobby by listening
to the wave of alarm calls and fleeing birds. If the hobby is below
the tree/roof tops, and you can't see it, look for the lorikeets
flying above it, and the pied butchebirds going up and down, dive
bombing, as it passes thtrough their territory.

Also, not only miners, but many other species have different bird
calls for different raptor species - ones that I've observed
regularly enough to be sure of this include BF honeyeaters
(honorary miners anyway), various Melithreptus (esp. white-throated
honeyeaters), drongos, woodswallows, swallows, fork-tailed swifts,
little friarbirds, grey, pied and BB butherbirds. I'm sure there's
more I've forgotten.

Most species recognise other species' alarm calls I think, and
respond/join in accordingly. Peaceful doves seem especially
challenged though in this respect and hence the regularity on
hobby's menu.

Great topic, a favourite of mine.


Eric Vanderduys
Technical Officer
CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences
Phone: +61 7 4753 8529 | Fax: +61 7 4753 8600 | Mobile: 0437 330 961
<> |<> |<>
Address: CSIRO, PMB PO, Aitkenvale, Qld 4814. Deliveries: CSIRO,
ATSIP, Bld 145 James Cook Drive, James Cook University Douglas
Campus, Townsville Qld 4814, AUSTRALIA

-----Original Message-----
] On Behalf Of Mick Roderick
Sent: Tuesday, 17 December 2013 8:49 AM
To: Shirley Cook; Messages Birding-aus
Subject: Fw: Fw: Alarm calls

I totally agree with Stephen and have been trying to nut this out
at home. Here at Shortland (on the edge of Hexham Swamp, Hunter
Estuary, NSW) we are blessed with a good variety of raptors. I have
had 18 species fly over my house during the past 12 months (I work
from home so spend a lot of time here!). We are also "blessed" with
an uber-aggressive mob of Noisy Miners (I have seen them near-kill
a White Ibis and have brought egrets down to the ground).

As Stephen says, one can tell which type of raptor is approaching
by the pitch and 'urgency' of the Noisy Miner alarm calls. The most
frantic calls occur when an Accipiter approaches (less so for a
Grey Gos), followed by Hobby, Peregrine then maybe other falcons.
The Hobby can really get the neighbourhood going though and is
possibly the only bird that causes every antenna-perched pigeon to
leave their perches in a panic. You can almost track a Hobby by
listening to the wave of alarm calls and fleeing birds.

I was first alerted to this (pardon the pun) by when my first
Little Eagle flew over the house. The alarm was completely
different to any of the others I had heard and sure enough, a
'different' raptor appeared.

They do not bother sounding off at Whistling Kites and only do so
at Black Kites because they're a rare visitor here.

The alarm for Corvids (there are resident Aussie Ravens and
Torresian Crows here) is completely different. It's hardly an
'alarm' at all but is that relentless 'near near near' that Noisy
Miners are famous for. It's probably the same for the cuckoos.


On Tuesday, 17 December 2013 9:25 AM, Shirley Cook 

DEar all

Here is a very interesting comment from Stephen Debus.

Shirley Cook

<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>

The University of NSW School of Computer and Engineering takes no responsibility for the contents of this archive. It is purely a compilation of material sent by many people to the birding-aus mailing list. It has not been checked for accuracy nor its content verified in any way. If you wish to get material removed from the archive or have other queries about the archive e-mail Andrew Taylor at this address: andrewt@cse.unsw.EDU.AU