For anyone who hasn't already had enough of this
topic here are some extracts from P.A. Bourke's note 'Mimicry by the Pipit'
published in Emu Vol 42 pp 184-185, 1943. The event took place within a half
mile of Bourke's home in Gilgandra. I haven't been able to find out much about
him, but have a copy of a book he wrote called 'A Handbook of Elementary Bird
Study', published in 1955, an interesting text book apparently
aimed at school students.
"I am inclined to agree with the author of the
article reviewd in The Emu some time ago that many records of mimicry are not
accurate, and I usually think many more times than the regulation twice before
deciding that a bird actually is mimicking. In that way I have discounted the
efforts of several birds I have heard lately, but an experience to-day left no
room for doubt of the powers of a Pipit...
I had a hide set up at the nest of a Little Quail,
and less than ten minutes after I had entered it... a bird perched on one of the
sticks supporting the hessian. It commenced to sing there, and I placed it as a
Pipit, when a strange note crept into its voice and left me wondering, for the
note was that of a Red-backed Parrot, followed several seconds later by that of
a Yellow-tailed Thornbill. However, within a minute it left the hide and perched
on a clod seven or eight feet away and right in front of my 'spy-hole'. From
that position it sang for at least five minutes... The list of birds
imitated..was Red-backed Parrot (including the medley of calls when several
birds are flying overhead), Zebra Finch, Black-fronted Dotterel ('twink" call),
Wagtail ('sweet-pretty-creature'), Brown Tree-creeper, Yellow-tailed Thornbill,
White-browed Wood-Swallow, Magpie (warning call).
The calls were all woven into one song, with
scarcely a pause, and were punctuated by the bird's own calls. The change in
tone, volume and intensity, between calls such as those of the parrot and the
finch, were remarkable, and the notes were quite exact... I have heard that the
Bush-Lark is a capable mimic, and thought, at first, that this really must be
Mirafra, but there was no doubt of its identity... To cap the experience - when
the bird flew, and I remembered that I was supposed to be trying to take
photos, I looked at the nest, and there was the Little Quail, brooding
peacefully, with feathers all fluffed out, in an attitude for all the world like
that of some dignified old domestic hen. I laughed out loud, and the quail
disappeared behind the nearest stook of wheat."
You don't read stuff like that in Emu these days.
And from now on I'll be careful not to laugh at button