Group chorusing as an intragroup signal in the greater ani, a communally breeding bird

Amanda Savagian, Christina Riehl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Group living often requires maintaining dynamic and varied relationships with fellow group members, while simultaneously monitoring and interacting with external competitors. Group members in many social species vocalize together to produce duets or choruses—coordinated, often conspicuous vocal displays—that may play a role in these interactions. Compared with male–female duets, however, relatively little research exists on the function and adaptive significance of group choruses, which involve three or more individuals. Here we investigate chorusing behavior in the greater ani (Crotophaga major), a communally breeding cuckoo that nests in stable social groups of four to eight unrelated individuals. Groups may remain together for several years on the same nesting territory, and groups occasionally destroy each other's clutches in conflicts over high-quality territories. We asked whether the raucous, highly stereotyped choruses performed by ani groups are primarily used for intra- or intergroup communication, and whether they contain information about the identity of the social group and the number of birds vocalizing. Behavioral observations and acoustic recordings from three breeding seasons revealed that choruses typically occurred during social interactions within the group (78% of choruses) or in response to a predator or extra-group individual (17%) and only rarely in intergroup interactions (4%). Consistent with this finding, choruses did not reliably reflect the number of birds vocalizing, and we found only limited evidence for group-specific acoustic signatures (driven by a single group whose choruses were highly distinct). These results suggest that group choruses play an important role in intra-group signaling, potentially in contexts such as group formation, reinforcement of social bonds within the group, and/or collective decision-making, and they motivate new research questions about the role of collective signaling in social evolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)63-73
Number of pages11
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


  • collective signaling
  • duetting
  • greater ani
  • group formation
  • identity signature
  • size signature


Dive into the research topics of 'Group chorusing as an intragroup signal in the greater ani, a communally breeding bird'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this