Bobwhites Listen to Each Other When Picking Habitat; University of Illinois Researchers Used Taped Calls to Lure Birds to Suitable Habitats; Hope to Increase Currently Declining Bobwhite Populations

[This article was written by Ananya Sen, a graduate student in Microbiology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Ms. Sen is also a science writer and her articles can be found at http://ananyasen.web.illinois.edu/. This article was originally published as a Research News article by the University of Illinois News Bureau (https://news.illinois.edu/view/6367).] Northern bobwhites are attracted to a habitat based on whether other bobwhites are present there, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign report. This phenomenon, called con-specific attraction, could aid conservation efforts. Bobwhites, Colinus virginianus, are resident birds--they decide where to live and stick to that decision for the rest of their lives, said Michael Ward (https://nres.illinois.edu/directory/mpward), PhD, a Professor of Natural Resources And Environmental Sciences (https://nres.illinois.edu/), who led the research. “It’s an important decision,” he said. “It’s like sampling food at different restaurants before you decide where to eat.” The researchers played recordings of bobwhite songs to see whether they could attract the birds to unoccupied sites in the Cold Springs area of Fort Polk, Louisiana. “We played their calls on an MP3 player that was attached to a battery,” Dr. Ward said. “We tried to mimic their natural singing behavior by playing the recordings more often in the morning and less in the afternoon.” The researchers studied the sites for three years. They did not play any recordings in the first year. The next year they divided the sites into those with and without recordings. The sites were flipped the third year.
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