Vocal complexity in a socially complex corvid: gradation, diversity and lack of common call repertoire in male rooks.
Vocal communication is widespread in animals, with vocal repertoires of varying complexity. The social complexity hypothesis predicts that species may need high vocal complexity to deal with complex social organization (e.g. have a variety of different interindividual relations). We quantified the vocal complexity of two geographically distant captive colonies of rooks, a corvid species with complex social organization and cognitive performances, but understudied vocal abilities. We quantified the diversity and gradation of their repertoire, as well as the inter-individual similarity at the vocal unit level. We found that males produced call units with lower diversity and gradation than females, while song units did not differ between sexes. Surprisingly, while females produced highly similar call repertoires, even between colonies, each individual male produced almost completely different call repertoires from any other individual. These findings question the way male rooks communicate with their social partners. We suggest that each male may actively seek to remain vocally distinct, which could be an asset in their frequently changing social environment. We conclude that inter-individual similarity, an understudied aspect of vocal repertoires, should also be considered as a measure of vocal complexity.
Peer reviewed: True
Publication status: Published