A slow swinging of the head from one side to the other; the elephant stands Attentive and Vigilant, typically Freezing and Ear-Spreading. Head-Swinging is most often observed when a group of elephants is facing a threat. Adult females often Head-Swing in unison, as if choreographed.
Head-Swinging is also associated with Contact-Calling and other situations where an elephant appears to be Listening and attempting to localize a call or other sound. Head-Swinging likely functions in sound localization as well as acting as a visual signal to other elephants to draw attention to a threatening situation.
All age/sex groups may be observed to Head-Swing, although newborns, infants and young calves appear oblivious to threats that engage older elephants in a family and typically do not participate in communal Head-Swinging.
References: Langbauer 2000; Poole & Granli 2003; Poole & Granli 2011 [Swaying]. (Full reference list)
This behavior occurs in the following context(s): Conflict & Confrontation, Vigilance