Data from: Oilbirds produce echolocation signals beyond their best hearing range and adjust signal design to natural light conditions

  • Signe Brinkløv (Ophavsmand)
  • Coen P. H. Elemans (Ophavsmand)
  • John M. Ratcliffe (University of Toronto) (Ophavsmand)



Oilbirds are active at night, foraging for fruits using keen olfaction and extremely light-sensitive eyes, and echolocate as they leave and return to their cavernous roosts. We recorded the echolocation behaviour of wild oilbirds using a multi-microphone array as they entered and exited their roosts under different natural light conditions. During echolocation, the birds produced click bursts (CBs) lasting less than 10 ms and consisting of a variable number (2–8) of clicks at 2–3 ms intervals. The CBs have a bandwidth of 7–23 kHz at −6 dB from signal peak frequency. We report on two unique characteristics of this avian echolocation system. First, oilbirds reduce both the energy and number of clicks in their CBs under conditions of clear, moonlit skies, compared with dark, moonless nights. Second, we document a frequency mismatch between the reported best frequency of oilbird hearing (approx. 2 kHz) and the bandwidth of their echolocation CBs. This unusual signal-to-sensory system mismatch probably reflects avian constraints on high-frequency hearing but may still allow oilbirds fine-scale, close-range detail resolution at the upper extreme (approx. 10 kHz) of their presumed hearing range. Alternatively, oilbirds, by an as-yet unknown mechanism, are able to hear frequencies higher than currently appreciated.
Dato for tilgængelighed17. maj 2017
ForlagDryad Digital Repository