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Lesson Nine: What are the reasons animals use sounds?


Animals use sound to warn others to stay out of its territory and also to attract a mate. Crows are highly intelligent birds that have a complex language system. They make at least twenty five different sounds which include growling, squawking, squealing, cooing, and rattling. They use these different calls to identify themselves and communicate with other birds. They also have an emergency call to have other crows come quickly to help. A group of crows is called a murder.

Learning Outcomes:

The learner will identify examples of body language and verbal calls crows use and the reasons for this types of communication.

Curriculum Alignment:

National Science Education Standards

Content Standard A: Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry

  • Understanding about scientific inquiry.
  • Employ simple equipment and tools to gather data and extend the senses.

Content Standard B: Physical Science

  • Sound is produced by vibrating objects. The pitch of the sound can be varied by changing the rate of vibration.

Content Standard C: Life Science

  • The characteristics of organisms
  • Organisms and their environments

Content Standard F: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives

  • Characteristics and changes in populations
  • Changes in environments
  • Science and technology in local challenges

Content Standard G: History and Nature of Science

  • Science as a human endeavor

NC SCOS Music Curriculum

Goal 6: The learner will listen to, analyze, and describe music. (National Standard 6)

  • 6.01 Identify music forms when presented aurally including AB, ABA, AABA, Call and Response, Rondo, Theme and Variations, Ballad, and Introduction/Coda.
  • 6.03 Use appropriate terminology in explaining music, music notation, music instruments and voices, and music performances.
  • 6.05 Identify solo and group vocal timbres including children's voices, and male/female adult voices.
  • 6.06 Respond through purposeful movement to selected prominent music characteristics or to specific music events while listening to music.
  • 6.07 Show respect while listening to and analyzing music.

Goal 8: The learner will understand relationships between music, the other arts, and content areas outside the arts. (National Standard 8)

  • 8.02 Identify ways in which the principles and subject matter of other content areas taught in the school are related to those of music.


One 60 minute period


Book Crows! Strange and Wonderful.

Technology Resources:



Listen the sounds of crows communicating. Discuss what the students think the crows might be communicating to each other.


Look at some video clips of crows. Ask students how they move? (the crows walk which is unlike other birds that hop). Give each group a scenario from below. Have them read a photocopied page form the book Crows! Strange and Wonderful. Have students choose a scenario to act out showing characteristics of crow behaviors focus on body and verbal language in the activity.


Nest building (cooperative task where many crows help out.

Scenario 2:

Playfulness (playing tug of war, catch)

Scenario 3:

Using warning calls to tell something to stay away

Scenario 4:

Assembly calls urging others to come quickly and help

Scenario 5:

Being mobbed by other birds because crows hunt in little birds nests and eat the eggs

Scenario 6:

Crows eating ex. Mice, berries, grasshoppers, people food, dead animals

Scenario 7:

Cleverness; Pulling fishing line out of ice fishing hole and eating bait or caught fish

Scenario 8:

Using tools like sticks to catch bugs, dropping things on ground to break (You tube Attenborough Crows in the City)


After viewing all of the dramatizations, Read the book Crows! Strange and Wonderful. discuss how crows communicate very effectively with body language and sound. American Crows are highly vocal birds. Unlike most other songbirds, males and females have the same songs. They have a complex system of loud, harsh caws that are often uttered in repetitive rhythmic series. Shorter and sharper caws called "kos" are probably alarm or alert calls. Slightly longer caws are probably used in territorial defense, and patterns of repetition may be matched in what may be considered "countersinging," or exchanges between territorial neighbors. "Double caws," short caws repeated in stereotyped doublets, may serve as a call-to-arms vocalization, alerting family members to territorial intruders. Sometimes pairs or family members coordinate their cawing in a duet or chorus. Harsher cawing is used while mobbing potential predators. People are less familiar with the large variety of softer calls crows can make. Melodic, highly variable coos accompanied by bowing postures are used among family members, possibly as greetings or other bonding signals. Coos of cage-mates become similar over time; this vocalization may therefore be the basis of the mimicry ability shown by pet crows. Crows also give several kinds of rattles. Young crows make gargling sounds that eventually turn into adult vocalizations. Yearling crows also "ramble" or run through long sequences of different patterns and rhythms of cawing. Crows are also an extremely social clan. They work as a team to drive away predators. Their vocalizing team replicates the building of a chorus until time to attack. This vocal ensemble lends similarities to the work songs of humans. A work song is a piece of music closely connected to a specific form of work, either sung while conducting a task, often to coordinate timing. Work songs are also considered communal songs linked to a synchronized task or trade which might be a connected narrative, description, or protest song. Work songs are believed to have originated with slaves. The slave masters encouraged the songs to increase productivity. Play examples of work songs.


Have students relate the countersinging of the crow to the form style of call and response. Identify how the crow “calls” to his territorial neighbors and their will counter a response.


Compare crows to songbirds. Most female songbirds do not sing to communicate. Female crows are as vocal as their male crows. Explore the songbird and crow communication system. All species must learn their cultures system in order to be understood. Discuss how difficult the level of communication is when members are non-vocal.




  • Duet — a musical composition or piece for two performers
  • Chorus — a musical ensemble of singers
  • Countersinging — exchanges between territorial neighbors
  • Solo — a musical composition or piece for one performer
  • Unison – singing or playing the same notes by all singers or players, either at exactly the same pitch or in a different octave.
  • Call and Response – a song style that follows a simple question-and-answer pattern in which a soloist leads and a group responds.
  • Work song — a rhythmic a cappella song sung by people working on a physical and often repetitive task
  • Spiritual — a musical form that is indigenous and specific to the religious experience in the United States of Africans and their descendants. Spirituals are a result of the fusion of music and religion from Africa with music and religion of European origin.