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Differential responses to gosling distress calls in parental and non-parental Greylag Geese

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Alina Loth, Didone Frigerio, Kurt Kotrschal, Georgine Szipl

School/Research organisations


The pre-fledging survival of Greylag goslings (Anser anser) is known to be influenced by parenting style and particularly parental vigilance. Visual and acoustic cues may be important in parental vigilance: if vision is blocked, for example in a highly structured habitat, acoustic recognition of the goslings by their parents would be beneficial. We confronted parental and non-parental Greylag Geese with playbacks of gosling distress calls and analyzed their behavioral responses. Parental geese showed a significant increase in their vigilance behavior during and after playbacks while geese without offspring showed increased comfort behavior. In a permutated discriminant function analysis, we found no family-specific vocal cues in gosling calls, and potential call familiarity did not have any effect on parental behavioral responses. Vigilance in families was further influenced by the number of goslings and gosling age, with increased vigilance when the number of goslings was high, and when goslings were younger. Parental females were more vigilant than parental males, suggesting differences in parental investment between males and females. We conclude that visual cues may be more important in offspring-related vigilance than calls, which elicited different behavioral responses depending on the social class of the geese.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)401-412
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Ornithology
Issue number2
Early online date23 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018

    Research areas

  • Greylag Geese, Anser anser, Distress calls, Vigilance behavior, Parental investment, Acoustic recognition

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