Reality and illusion: The assessment of angular separation of multi-modal signallers in a duetting bird

Paweł Rȩk*, Robert D. Magrath

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    3 Citations (Scopus)


    The spatial distribution of cooperating individuals plays a strategic role in territorial interactions of many group-living animals, and can indicate group cohesion. Vocalizations are commonly used to judge the distribution of signallers, but the spatial resolution of sounds is poor. Many species therefore accompany calls with movement; however, little is known about the role of audio-visual perception in natural interactions. We studied the effect of angular separation on the efficacy of multimodal duets in the Australian magpie-lark, Grallina cyanoleuca. We tested specifically whether conspicuous wing movements, which typically accompany duets, affect responses to auditory angular separation. Multimodal playbacks of duets using robotic models and speakers showed that birds relied primarily on acoustic cues when visual and auditory angular separations were congruent, but used both modalities to judge separation between the signallers when modalities were spatially incongruent. The visual component modified the effect of acoustic separation: robotic models that were apart weakened the response when speakers were together, while models that were together strengthened responses when speakers were apart. Our results show that responses are stronger when signallers are together, and suggest that males were are able to bind information cross-modally on the senders' spatial location, which is consistent with a multisensory illusion.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number20220680
    JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
    Issue number1978
    Publication statusPublished - 13 Jul 2022


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