With regard to yesterday’s Clucking Munk post, which featured a recording of the Eastern Chipmunk’s “aerial predator alarm call,” some folks asked me to provide an example of its counterpart: the “ground predator alarm call.” So I’ve decided to do just that, as well as briefly describe the differences.
The ground predator alarm is a loud, high-pitched, staccato “chip,” given in a measured series (as you might guess, the chipmunk is named for this call). The energy of the call, frequency-wise, is mostly well above 3000 Hz. Here is an example:
High-pitched chips of an Eastern Chipmunk.
In contrast, the aerial predator alarm call is characterized by a loud, hollow cluck at around 1200 Hz that is accompanied by a much softer high frequency aspect (clucks can be heard several hundred feet away):
Clucking call of an Eastern Chipmunk.
It is true that you may come across a chipmunk giving calls that seem intermediate, but for the most part the two call types are distinct (at least that is my belief). In general, if the low clucking aspect of the call is present and dominant, the chipmunk is most likely responding to an aerial predator, although he might be giving the call because he hears neighboring chipmunks giving the call (clucking is contagious in this respect—if one chipmunk sees a hawk and starts clucking, a neighbor might soon join-in, even though he might not have seen the hawk).
A BRILLIANT IDEA: Why don’t we name this animal based on what sound he’s making? If we come across an individual who is chipping, we will call him a Chip-munk. But if we come across an individual who is clucking, maybe we should call him a Cluck-munk. I rather like that … Cluckmunk! And if he isn’t making any sound? How about Stripemunk!
There is yet another vocalization type made by chipmunks. It is called the “chip-trill” and is given by chipmunks who are diving for cover. I believe that chipmunks give this call no matter what the disturbance (a diving hawk, a fox or dog on the charge, or a human suddenly appearing). Almost always, if you hear this call, the chipmunk is rushing into a burrow, a tree hollow, or other shelter, although in my best recording he gives a chip-trill in the middle of a chip series:
Chip-trill of an Eastern Chipmunk.
If you’re interested, you can download a hi-resolution PDF of my original study, provided online by Smithsonian Institution:
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.