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Ovenbirds and Veeries eavesdrops on chipmunks before nesting

When you’re moving into new neighborhoods, you probably consider how noisy the neighbors are before deciding to buy a house.

Scientists have found that ground-nesting birds also eavesdrop on their neighbors before moving in, but not for the same reasons. According to the BBC, Ovenbirds and Veeries listen to chipmunk chatter before building in order to protect the nest from egg-eating chipmunks.

Since Overbirds and Veeries build their nests on the ground, they run the risk of hungry critters devouring their relatively vulnerable nest.

In the trials at Texes Tech University, researchers conducted a test in which they had a few areas that played loud chipmunk chatter and a few areas that were silent. The two species nested as far away from the chatter as possible. Here’s what one of the researchers said about it in a press release:

“Veeries and ovenbirds arrive annually from their tropical wintering grounds to temperate forests,” (doctoral candidate) Emmering said. “They must immediately choose where to nest. A safe neighborhood is paramount, as many nests fail due to predation. Predators are abundant. However, many predators communicate with one another using various calls, scent marks or visual displays that become publicly available for eavesdropping prey to exploit.”

This finding is yet another example of how birds listen to noises for cues and clues. For example, other studies found that birds listen to others to identify troublemakers and find great nesting spots, but this is the first example of birds listening to mammals for cues.

Timothy Martinez Jr. is a writer and freelance journalist. His work has been published in The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, Remapping Debate in New York City and other publications. He’s been a bird lover since he was young and currently lives in New Orleans, L.A.