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Airdate: Jun 19, 2012
Scientist: Nigel Mann

Wrens of Ecuador - Discovery

Wrens of Ecuador - Discovery
Rather than vocalize in your typical bird duet, a species of tropical wren sings in a chorus.

Transcript:
Wrens of Ecuador - Discovery

Music; Ambience: Plain-Tailed Wren Songs

When you're out in the field observing birds, it's not often that you see something totally unexpected. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. In Ecuador, wrens are known for fiercely defending their territoriality and also for their interwoven duets. Well, a team of researchers was in Ecuador taking a survey of these duetting wrens, setting up traps of nearly invisible netting and using recordings of wren songs to lure the birds into the nets. But then things got a little unusual.

"And usually within one or two minutes we've got the territory owners arriving. And that's exactly what happened."

Nigel Mann is an Assistant Professor of Biology at the State University of New York in Oneonta. The territory owners he's speaking of typically would be a pair of wrens who nest in the area.

"So we start hearing song converging on the net, these territory owners are getting angry. They're getting aggressive. They're sending a signal to try to chase out these intruders. We were hiding nearby watching the net very closely. And a single bird flew into the net. Usually that would be the male. And then a second or two later he's followed by a second bird. Now at this point, with two birds in the net, we normally get up and take both of the birds out of the net, but before we even had a chance to get up and extract these two birds from the net, a third bird flew into the net. And then a fourth bird flew into the net. Our assumption at this stage would be, well maybe we put this net on a boundary between two territories. And so both sets of territory owners had arrived at that net at the same time. But then a fifth bird flew into the net and then a sixth and then finally even a seventh bird. And this had us totally baffled. We'd never had this with any of the other wren species before. We had seven birds in the net."

Nigel Mann and his team had apparently netted an entire chorus of tropical wrens something never before observed in this species. And we'll hear about the significance of the discovery in future programs. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.