Individual recognition based on communication behaviour of male fowl

Carolynn L. Smith, Jessica Taubert, Kimberly Weldon, Christopher S. Evans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Correctly directing social behaviour towards a specific individual requires an ability to discriminate between conspecifics. The mechanisms of individual recognition include phenotype matching and familiarity-based recognition. Communication-based recognition is a subset of familiarity-based recognition wherein the classification is based on behavioural or distinctive signalling properties. Male fowl (Gallus gallus) produce a visual display (tidbitting) upon finding food in the presence of a female. Females typically approach displaying males. However, males may tidbit without food. We used the distinctiveness of the visual display and the unreliability of some males to test for communication-based recognition in female fowl. We manipulated the prior experience of the hens with the males to create two classes of males: S+ wherein the tidbitting signal was paired with a food reward to the female, and S - wherein the tidbitting signal occurred without food reward. We then conducted a sequential discrimination test with hens using a live video feed of a familiar male. The results of the discrimination tests revealed that hens discriminated between categories of males based on their signalling behaviour. These results suggest that fowl possess a communication-based recognition system. This is the first demonstration of live-to-video transfer of recognition in any species of bird.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)101-105
Number of pages5
JournalBehavioural Processes
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to acknowledge funding from the Australian Research Council ( DP064714 ) and the Macquarie University Vice Chancellor’s Discretionary Research Fund to C.S. Evans for this work.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier B.V.


  • Communication-based recognition
  • Discrimination
  • Fowl
  • Gallus gallus
  • Video playback
  • Visual signals


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