Are both notes of the common cuckoo's call necessary for familiarity recognition?

Csaba Moskát, Márk E. Hauber, Miklós Bán, Attila Fülöp, Nikoletta Geltsch, Attila Marton, Zoltán Elek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Common cuckoos (Cuculus canorus) are best known for their simple two-note calls (“cu-coo”), which are uttered only by males during the breeding season. A previous playback study revealed that territorial males were more tolerant toward playbacks of the calls of familiar, neighbouring individuals than toward unfamiliar, stranger simulated intruders, exhibiting the classical “dear-enemy” phenomenon. Here we experimentally assessed whether the acoustic cues for familiarity recognition are encoded in the first and/or second note of these simple calls. To do so, we played mixed sound files to radio-tagged cuckoos, where the first part of the two-note calls was taken from strangers and the second part from neighbours, or vice versa. As controls, we used behavioural data from two-note neighbour and two-note stranger call playbacks. Cuckoos responded consistently to the two types of mixed sound files. When either the first or second note of the call was taken from a stranger and the other note from a neighbour, they responded to these sound files similarly to two-note playbacks of strangers: they approached the speaker of the playbacks more closely and the calling response-latency to playbacks was longer than to familiar controls. These findings point to the importance of both notes in familiarity recognition. We conclude that familiarity recognition in male common cuckoos needs the complete structure of the two-note cuckoo call, which is characteristic for this species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)685-690
Number of pages6
JournalBehavioural Processes
StatePublished - Dec 2018


  • Acoustic manipulation
  • Dear-enemy effect
  • Individual recognition
  • Neighbour-stranger discrimination
  • Playback
  • Sound analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Are both notes of the common cuckoo's call necessary for familiarity recognition?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this