Mistletoebird Display

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Subject: Mistletoebird Display
From: "Vicki Parslow Stafford" <>
Date: Thu, 27 Aug 1998 18:23:25 -0400
In the last week or so, I posted a couple of responses to Syd Curtis' RFI
regarding mimicry in the heathwren, in which I described mimicry in the
song of the male mistletoebird.

Coincidentally (ah, spring!) today I again observed a mistletoebird engage
in sustained song with mimicry.  It was perched in a swamp mahogany in my
front yard, a favourite haunt because of the large clump of mistletoe in
the tree.  The song was sustained for 8 - 10 minutes, and included clearly
recognisable fragments of the calls of the scarlet honeyeater, willie
wagtail, brown honeyeater and silvereye, as well as predominant bursts of
the territorial song and contact/alarm calls of the superb blue wren.  A
pair of wrens were actively courting and copulating in the shrubbery
underneath, and the male wren became increasingly agitated as the
mistletoebird's song continued.  Each burst of mimicry was met with a
typical territorial challenge by the wren, and agitated trilling by the

An unusual (to me) feature of the mistletoebird's display was several brief
episodes of slow, undulating, almost copulatory movements, which lasted
only a few seconds.  Otherwise the bird was in a hyperextended posture with
head thrust up and forward.  Has anyone more information on this behaviour?
 I assume it was a territorial/pre-courtship display of some kind, although
no female was evident anywhere nearby. 

Vicki PS
Vicki Parslow Stafford    |  "Even if you can't live up
             |   to your destiny, you can
Ipswich, Qld.  Australia   |    at least have one".

Vicki Parslow Stafford    |  "Even if you can't live up
             |   to your destiny, you can
Ipswich, Qld.  Australia   |    at least have one".

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