Duet displays within a flock function as a joint resource defence signal in the red-crowned crane

  • Kohei F. Takeda
  • Mariko Hiraiwa-Hasegawa
  • Nobuyuki Kutsukake
Original Article


Avian duets performed in an exclusive territory have been studied intensively. By contrast, only a few studies have been conducted on duets with multi-modal displays performed within a fission–fusion flock in which individuals can participate in face-to-face social interactions. Here, we examined the duet displays (DDs) of the red-crowned crane (Grus japonensis), an endangered species in Japan, in a wintering flock in which individuals gathered for artificially provisioned foods. We tested two hypotheses: that DDs function as a signal of joint resource defence and for pair bond maintenance. Our behavioural analyses showed that the total frequency of DDs within a flock was positively associated with the number of joining cranes. This result indicated that the change in within-flock competition positively affected DD performance because an increase in flock size can reduce the per capita gain of resources. At the individual level, pairs accompanying their young (families) performed DDs more frequently than pairs that did not have their young. To care for their young, access to food resources is thought to be more important for pairs accompanying their young than pairs that did not have young. This result suggests that the DDs reflected the motivation to compete for resources. The performance of DDs increased the probability of staying in a favourable area. These results support the hypothesis that DDs function as a signal of joint resource defence in the flock. This study provides rare data on the function of coordinated vocal displays within a flock of birds.

Significance statement

Crane pairs perform duet displays (DDs) in a wintering flock. We mainly tested the hypothesis that DDs function as a joint resource defence signal. The change of overall competition positively affected the frequency of DDs, and the performance of DDs reflected the motivation to access food. The frequency of DDs was positively associated with the success of the food defence. This study provides rare data on the function of coordinated vocal displays within a group of birds.


Animal communication Duet Crane Fission–fusion society 



We thank K. Momose, Y. Momose, Y. Masatomi and F. Matsumoto (the Red-Crowned Crane Conservancy) for kindly support of the fieldwork, the banding research data and valuable advice. We also thank the Akan International Crane Center for providing access to the ideal observation site. We are grateful to the two reviewers and the editor for valuable comments.


This study was supported by the Cooperation Research Program of Wildlife Research Center, Kyoto University.

Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical statement

All observation protocols were approved by the Animal Care and Use Committees at The Graduate University for Advanced Studies (SOKENDAI) and adhered to the Guidelines for the Use of Animals of the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour/Animal Behavior Society. This research was performed with permission from the Akan International Crane Center.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Supplementary material (99.5 mb)
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kohei F. Takeda
    • 1
  • Mariko Hiraiwa-Hasegawa
    • 1
  • Nobuyuki Kutsukake
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Evolutionary Studies of Biosystems, School of Advanced SciencesSOKENDAI (The Graduate University for Advanced Studies)HayamaJapan

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