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Communication and social behaviour in carrion crows (Corvus corone corone)

About This PhD Project

Project Description

Research Group: Animal and Environment Research Group (AERG)

Proposed supervisory team: Dr Claudia Wascher (), Dr Jake Dunn ()

Theme: Animal Communication

Summary of the research project:

Vocal communication is an important aspect of social life, as it contributes to social interactions and facilitates coordination of activities between group members. For example, signals facilitate coordinated group movement and vigilance behaviour. Corvids live in complex social groups, with their social system being highly flexible depending on ecological and life-history factors. For example carrion crows (Corvus corone corone) are cooperatively breeding in Northern Spain but not in the rest of Europe, based on environmental, not genetic factors. Social interactions in corvids are highly coordinated via vocal communication, e.g. information sharing about food, territorial defence, alarm calling. Though not celebrated for their song, carrion crows produce a wide variety of vocalizations. Breeding pairs defend large, all purpose territories and mates of a breeding pair defend the territory strongly against intruding conspecifics by scolding, mobbing, aerial attacks and actual fights.

The proposed project aims at investigating aspects of social interactions and vocal communication in carrion crows. The vocal repertoire of non-cooperatively breeding carrion crows in the UK will be determined during the breeding season. The function of different call-types will be investigated by examining behavioural responses to calls in a playback experiment. Further, we aim at investigating whether vocal complexity increases with social complexity, by comparing vocal repertoire in different corvid species and populations from pre-existing data-bases. The proposed project will provide insight about the complexity and function of vocal communication in a highly social bird species.

Where you'll study: Cambridge


This project is self-funded. Details of studentships for which funding is available are selected by a competitive process and are advertised on our jobs website as they become available.

Next steps:

If you wish to be considered for this project, you will need to apply for our Animal and Environmental Sciences PhD. In the section of the application form entitled 'Outline research proposal', please quote the above title and include a research proposal.

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