Stripe Backed Wrens: Way Calls: The Pulse of the Planet daily radio program offers free legal online mp3 downloads, exploring the world of sound in nature, culture and science, with audio adventures, world music, extraordinary sound portraits, science diaries, and nature ring-tones; an amazing sonic experience.

Airdate: Mar 11, 2002
Scientist: Jordan Price

Stripe Backed Wrens: Way Calls

Stripe Backed Wrens: Way Calls
Scientists are learning the intricacies of acoustical recognition through the songs of Venezuelan stripe-backed wrens.


ambience: Stripe-backed wren songs, grassland sounds

Many birds see the world around them - through their ears. For example, instead of depending upon sight, the stripe-backed wren has evolved the ability to recognize other wrens by their songs. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Jordan Price is with the Bell Museum of Natural History at the University of Minnesota.

"Humans - we're very visual animals. You know, years later you can remember the way somebody looks... but voices, we're not as good at. Birds on the other hand, may not have this ability to recognize each other visually, but they, they can recognize each other acoustically."

Price and his research team found that stripe backed wrens from the ilanos (ee-YAN-ows) or savannas of Venezuela, use a particular song named a 'way call' to identify each other and to mark their individual territories.

ambience: Stripe-backed wren 'way call'

"A way call is kind of a soft complex sounding call that stripe backed wrens will often give back and forth to each other in the territory. They actually, people have said, sound like a little bit like human voice, saying: 'Where are you? Where are you?' and that's where the name came from. People started calling them 'where are you, 'or 'way' calls, um w-a-y calls, and the name kinda stuck."

There's also evidence that 'way calls" act as a kind of sonic surname, making it possible to recognize birds from the same immediate family. We'll hear more about stripe backed wrens, and the importance of 'way calls' in an future programs.

Please visit our website at Pulse of the Planet is presented with support provided by the National Science Foundation I'm Jim Metzner.