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nicole_butlerMs Nicole Butler

Course of study:
Doctor of Philosophy (Zoology) 2012

An investigation into the anti-predator response of zebra finches, and their ability to eavesdrop on the alarm calls of other bird species

Many vertebrate species produce an alarm call, a sound emitted in the presence of a threat that is mainly used to warn conspecifics. However, alarm calling does not only benefit conspecifics, it can also benefit sympatric heterospecifics if they are able to associate the call with danger. My research focuses on zebra finches and aims to answer the questions of whether they possess their own alarm call, and if they are able to eavesdrop on the calls of others. In both field and captive studies, I will record the response of zebra finches to threatening stimuli and to the alarm calls of other birds, and through analysis of both sound and video recordings I should be able to determine exactly how the birds are responding and communicating to one another. I also aim to conduct learning experiments where I will attempt to teach zebra finches to respond appropriately to a novel alarm call by presenting it simultaneously with a threatening image.