Pied Currawong mimicing Magpie

To: "'Nick Payne'" <>, "'Canberra Birds'" <>
Subject: Pied Currawong mimicing Magpie
From: "Philip Veerman" <>
Date: Wed, 13 Jan 2010 15:40:27 +1100
Hello Nick,

The question of "Why" in such a context is a very hard one to answer. By
far the best piece of research that I have ever seen on vocal mimicry of
birds is the article: Dobkin, D.S. (1979), 'Functional and evolutionary
relationships of vocal copying phenomena in birds', Zeitschrift fur
Tierpsychologie 50, 348-363. 

That is because it is the only one to take an overview and describe the
types of possibilities. Most supposed vocal mimicry is simple vocal
copying and is not function mimicry at all (in the way that the word
mimicry is used in other senses in zoology) and the mimic is not in any
way relating to the model or gaining a benefit. 

I quoted that research in my articles that describe how one of our
mid-sized honeyeaters uses vocal mimicry in a manner suggesting

These are: (1992) 'Vocal Mimicry of Larger Honeyeaters by the Regent
Honeyeater Xanthomyza phrygia', Australian Bird Watcher 14(5):180-189
and my follow-up article (1994) 'Batesian Acoustic Mimicry by the Regent
Honeyeater Xanthomyza phrygia.' in the Australian Bird Watcher

In the case you cite, I think it likely that the Pied Currawong may be a
juvenile and at that stage are learning how to make the right sounds and
for a while appear in their experimentation to make mistakes. If it is
not a juvenile then any reason is something else. 


-----Original Message-----
From: Nick Payne  
Sent: Wednesday, 13 January 2010 6:52 AM
To: Canberra Birds
Subject: Pied Currawong mimicing Magpie

I just heard what sounded like a Magpie call but not quite. Went to 
investigate and found a Pied Currawong in one of our street trees that 
was making the call. It repeated the call with no variation that I could

detect about ten or a dozen times before flying off. Why should a 
Currawong vocally imitate a Magpie?


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