Japanese bird researcher 1st in the world to prove animals use words, grammar

Good News Notes:

A Japanese researcher studying a bird common to the country’s forests and urban parks has proven for the first time that animals communicate using words and grammar.

Toshitaka Suzuki, a 38-year-old assistant professor at Kyoto University’s Hakubi Center for advanced research, first became interested in Japanese tits — each about 15 centimeters long — when he was a second-year student at the Faculty of Science at Toho University. In a forest in Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture, one tit suddenly let out a distinctive “hee-hee” call, and its entire flock took off. This was immediately followed by the appearance of a hawk, the tits’ natural enemy, in the sky above.

Convinced that the tits were using different calls, Suzuki began experiments. Since then, he has used the forest as his “laboratory,” spending six to eight months a year there for 16 years.

The first thing Suzuki worked on was proving that the birds had “words” as we would understand the term. He experimented with the idea that the “jar-jar” call tits emitted when a snake appeared literally meant “snake.” A taxidermy snake was placed above a nest box for observation, and he confirmed that tits made “jar-jar” sounds. The bird did not make the same sound with other taxidermy predators, such as hawks….”

View the whole story here: https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20220402/p2a/00m/0sc/020000c

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