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Endangered Crow Calls

February 15, 2017

What happens to the calls of an endangered bird species when its only remaining members live in captivity?



A Hawaiian crow in the captive breeding program. (San Diego Zoo Global)


Endangered crow calls. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Hawaiian crows, or ‘alalā, are extinct in the wild due to disease, predators, and habitat loss.  Thanks to captive breeding efforts, there are around 100 birds now living in aviaries But new study suggests that birds born in captivity communicate differently from those that lived in the wild, however. For example, University of Hawaii, Hilo biological research technician Ann Tanimoto says captive birds don’t use territorial calls anymore, have a limited repertoire of alarm calls, and don’t vocalize overall as much overall.

(Hawaiian crow calls)

ANN TANIMOTO (University of Hawaii, Hilo):

It’s important to determine whether they have the vocalizations that they need for survival when they are reintroduced back into the wild.


She and her colleagues write in the journal Animal Behaviour that the lost the lost calls may have been passed down through generations of wild birds, but they might also start using them again when they return to the wild. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Susanne Bard