Finding a parent in a king penguin colony: the acoustic system of individual recognition

  title={Finding a parent in a king penguin colony: the acoustic system of individual recognition},
  author={Pierre JouventinP. Jouventin and Thierry Aubin and Thierry Lengagne},
  journal={Animal Behaviour},
To be fed, a king penguin, Aptenodytes patagonicus, chick must identify the call of its parents, in the continuous background noise of the colony. To study this recognition process, we played back to the chicks parental calls with acoustic parameters modified in the temporal and frequency domains. The parental call is composed of syllables (complex sounds with harmonic series) separated by pronounced amplitude declines. Our experiments with modified signals indicate that the chick's frequency… 

Figures and Tables from this paper

Localisation of an acoustic signal in a noisy environment: the display call of the king penguin Aptenodytes patagonicus.

King penguin chicks identify their parents by an acoustic signal, the display call, which consists of a succession of similar syllables and the redundant syllabic organisation of the call is a means of counteracting the masking effect of the background noise of the colony.

Intra-syllabic acoustic signatures used by the king penguin in parent-chick recognition: an experimental approach.

It is demonstrated for the first time that birds perform an analysis of the beat amplitude induced by the two-voice system to assess individual identity in a noisy colonial environment.

Perceptual salience of individually distinctive features in the calls of adult king penguins.

It was found that the king penguin vocalizes in response to the mate's playback calls, but not to those of neighbors or unfamiliar conspecific individuals.

Acoustic Communication in a Black-Headed Gull Colony: How Do Chicks Identify Their Parents?

Field experiments testing soundbased discrimination of parents by black-headed gull chicks demonstrated that signals without amplitude modulation still elicit responses in chicks, and revealed that frequency analysis is precise.

Acoustic systems are adapted to breeding ecologies: individual recognition in nesting penguins

Investigation of parent–chick recognition in two nesting species of penguins found that chicks of neither species used temporal characteristics of the parental call (variations in frequency or amplitude with time) for individual recognition, but that both species used a simpler parameter, the pitch of the call.

Penguins use the two–voice system to recognize each other

It is concluded that the two–voice phenomenon functions as an individual recognition system in species using few if any landmarks to meet and also propagates well through obstacles, being robust to sound degradation through the medium of bodies in a penguin colony.

Finding One's Mate in a King Penguin Colony: Efficiency of Acoustic Communication

The findings that acoustic communication was the main mode of communication during a change-over, and that the omnidirectional properties of sound allowed birds to reach more than five hundred other birds with each emitted call, were confirmed and the communication system is performed at short or medium range were proved.

The effect of hunger on the acoustic individuality in begging calls of a colonially breeding weaver bird

The results indicate that individual recognition processes can be based on static, hunger-independent call parameters, but also on dynamic hunger-related parameters that show high individuality, and suggest that the assessment of signals of need can be improved if the signal value is referenced to a chick's vocal spectrum.

How does a fur seal mother recognize the voice of her pup? An experimental study of Arctocephalus tropicalis.

The individual vocal signature occurring in the 'female attraction call' used by pups to attract their mother is investigated, and frequency modulation appears to be a key component for individual recognition, whereas amplitude modulation is not implicated in the identification of the pup's voice by its mother.




Roles of the two parameters in the discrimination of the mate's call are discussed in view of the knowledge about the auditory duration and pitch discrimination in birds, as well as their potential integration in the decision rules.

Cocktail–party effect in king penguin colonies

  • T. AubinP. Jouventin
  • Physics
    Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences
  • 1998
Chicks can discriminate between the parental call and calls from other adults at a greater distance, even when call intensity is well below that of the noise of simultaneous calls produced by other adults, which enhances the chick's ability to find its parents.


Cliff Swallow (Hirundo pyrrhonota) chicks were played calls of parents and unrelated (control) adults at 9 and 18 days of age. Younger chicks showed no difference in the frequency of their antiphonal

An analysis of the full song of the blackbird turdus merula with respect to message coding and adaptations for acoustic communication

It is hypothesized that parameters varying within species-specific limits have a potential for conveying a message about the species, and that parameter varying within these limits with the individual or the situation have an additional potential for conveyed individual or behavioural messages, respectively.

The Basis for Individual Recognition By Voice in the Sandwich Tern (Sterna Sandvicensis)

It is clear that if the fish-call is to be used as an effective means of individual recognition in a large colony the patterning of the call must play a major role.

What parameters can be used for individual acoustic recognition by the greater flamingo?

  • N. Mathevon
  • Physics
    Comptes rendus de l'Academie des sciences. Serie III, Sciences de la vie
  • 1996
The greater flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber is a colonial bird for which acoustic communication plays a great role, in particular during the mating period. The study of contact calls emitted by the

Categorization of song notes in great tits: which acoustic features are used and why?

Perceptual organization of acoustic stimuli by budgerigars (Melopsittacus undulatus): II. Vocal signals.

Operant conditioning and multidimensional scaling procedures were used to study auditory perception of complex sounds in the budgerigar and showed that budgerIGars group vocal stimuli according to functional and acoustical categories.

Perceptual organization of acoustic stimuli by budgerigars (Melopsittacus undulatus): I. Pure tones.

A new combination of operant conditioning and psychophysical scaling procedures was used to study auditory perception in a small bird, and budgerigars were much less responsive to pitch contour than were humans.

Perceptual organization of acoustic stimuli by budgerigars (Melopsittacus undulatus): III. Contact calls.

Tests with two groups of budgerigars showed that experience with calls can change the salience of various acoustic characteristics used for perceptual organization and individual recognition.