Re: tapes/mimicry

Subject: Re: tapes/mimicry
From: WM James Davis <>
Date: Wed, 19 Nov 1997 12:24:30 +1000 (EST)

> Having said that, I have replied because I wondered what the response was
> to birds that use mimicry such as lyrebirds, orioles, etc.  Does the
> imitated species come running???  We don't have a lot of mimics in WA.

No.  Although mimicry in birds is still not fully understood, it is
probably safe to say that the functionality of vocal mimicry varies
with species. As a rule, however, mimicry isn't used to repell or attract
the species whose song is being copied.  Instead, vocal mimicry
seems to be used to enhance the "attractive" of the singer's song for the
purpose of attracting or stimulate the opposite sex. Also, to varying
degrees mimicry can be a by-product of song learning in general - again it
depends upon species.  I believe some of your parrots in WA are superb
> I also wondered why cuckoos and other parasitic species had not evolved to
> imitate their host species?  They could learn when they are reared, and
> then it would make it a lot easier to find the nests of the hosts???
They probably do, but let me qualify this statement.  Cuckoos sing their
own songs to attract other cuckoos for mating or perhaps, to defend a
specific tract of land, etc. (can be very small).  However, young cuckoos
are known to mimic the begging call of their host species, perhaps to
increase the urge of the host parents to preferentially feed them.
I believe there is evdience that some cuckoos do learn to recognize the
song of the host species which helps the adult locate appropriate nests,

With regard to using playback recordings, I see nothing wrong with the
practice and besides most birds will quickly habituate to tape recordings
when they can't locate the singer, etc.  When watching bird behaviour, as
oppose to twitching, recording and then playing back the call can provide
useful information. I will not "call in a bird" if there is any hint that
I would put the life of the bird in danger.  I suppose in situations when
many bird watchers visit the same location to see one bird then
restrictions regarding the use of playback recordings could be justified.

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