Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Do Alpacas Communicate with each other

Alpacas - fleece, breeding - Aldergrove, BC - British Columbia, Canada - Kensington Prairie Farm

Alpaca vocalizations can be divided into five categories, including humming, ‘orgling’, screaming, clucking and alarm call. The most common sound is a humming noise. A female will hum to her cria and, in turn, the cria will respond with a softer hum. Alpacas also hum in uncertain circumstances or if they are worried or stressed.

Males make a very strange sound, called an ‘orgle’ while they are breeding. Sometimes they make this sound if there is an ‘open’ female on the other side of the fence. A breeding typically lasts 20-minutes or longer, with the male ‘orgling’ continuously. Upon hearing an orgle, other females will gather by the fence with ‘open’ females laying down (cushing) so as to be ready for breeding. This ‘orgling’ sound also gets the attention of other males, often resulting in fights or squirmishes in the nearby fields. When males are close at hand, it is appropriate to breed a female away from the rest of the herd if at all possible.

A male alpaca will occasionally snort at another male. Snorting is often the prelude to a fight. Once engaged in a fight, the males may begin screaming at each other. This screaming behavior is usually accompanied by chasing, neck wrestling, spiting, and biting of each other’s neck and legs. Eventually, the two will tire and the fight will end. Screaming may also occur when an alpaca perceives him/herself to be in an unpleasant situation (e.g. toenail trimming, shearing, etc.).

Females will sometimes make a “clucking” sound at a male over the fence. With head held high, ears back and tail up, such behavior seems to indicate distain. If the male alpaca fails to ‘back-off’, he may be the sad recipient of a giant split. For added emphasis, a female alpaca may vocalize a cluck followed by a snort.

Perceived danger (e.g. a strange dog or coyote) will elicit an alarm call. This high pitched ‘guttural whistle’ warns the rest of the herd of impending danger. Within moments of the original call, each member of the herd will be alarm calling. Females will occasionally make an alarm call, although their calls are not usually as loud as that of the male alpaca.

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