Sometimes one’s memory is not so good. After telling a friend that I only had three solid observations of chipmunks responding to aerial predators by giving cluck calls, I went back to my original published study from 1978 and discovered that I had actually recorded a whopping seventeen (17) instances of this behavior, not just three as I had remembered. And come to think of it, I’ve observed at least three additional examples since my study, bringing the total to around twenty! Not bad, even from a scientific point of view.
Concerning my monograph on chipmunk behavior published in 1978, I am pleased to announce that you can now download a hi-resolution PDF copy, thanks to Smithsonian Institution. I had no idea they had made it available online (click on the graphic to access the PDF):
Reference: Elliott, Lang. 1978. Social Behavior and Foraging Ecology of the Eastern Chipmunk (Tamias striatus) in the Adirondack Mountains, Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology, Number 265, Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C.
Just so we’re all up to speed on this matter, be sure to check out my two previous blog posts: The Clucking Munk and The Chipping Munk. Below is a summary recording featuring the chipmunk’s aerial predator alarm call, cluck, cluck, cluck, cluck … (ending with a chip-trill), followed by high-pitched chipping, chip, chip, chip, chip …, the latter most often given in the presence of ground predators (at least that’s my educated guess):
An Eastern Chipmunk giving ‘cluck’ calls followed by another individual giving ‘chip’ calls. Recordings by Lang Elliott made in the Adirdondack Mountains of upstate New York.
One friend tells me he has heard chipmunks clucking in the presence of house cats, and it appeared to him that the cats were stalking the chipmunks and that the chipmunks were responding with the clucks. I would be the first to admit that clucks might be given in response to ground predators, even though my experience has been otherwise. Given that chipmunks may cluck for five or ten minutes after a hawk has flown away, it is quite possible that a cat would walk by during that refractory period, leading an observer to believe the cat is responsible. On the other hand, maybe they do cluck in response to cats. I certainly have no observations to the contrary.
To my blog followers: Let me know if any of you have something relevant to add to this discussion. Have you noticed the clucking yourself? And have you ever nailed down an event (aerial predator fly-by, ground predator walk-by, etc.) that you think actually instigated a clucking bout? Have you ever heard chipmunks cluck in response to cats nearby?