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Acoustic Features of Wood Duck (Aix Sponsa) Maternal Calls

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While brooding their young and calling them out of the nest within 36 hr after hatching, wood duck hens utter a species-typical maternal call that their young find highly attractive. We recorded the maternal calls of eleven hens from nest sites in the field to determine the commonalities and variability in various acoustic features of the calls. Our results indicate that the "modal" wood duck maternal call has notes with the following characteristics: I. two independent, apparently nonharmonically-related tones between 900 and 1500 Hz uttered simultaneously; 2. descending frequency modulation - a finding that adds further substance to laboratory findings that indicate maternally-naive wood ducklings use this feature for species identification; 3. increasing amplitude modulation; 4. durations of 40-45 ms; 5. repetition rate of 9.0 notes/s; 6. 19 notes per burst. The variability between hens in the above features was relatively low, thus seeming to provide little or no basis for individual parent recognition, but that possibility remains to be determined experimentally.

Affiliations: 1: Psychology Laboratory, North Carolina Department of Mental Health, Dorothea Dix Hospital, Raleigh, N. C., U.S.A


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