"Carol Probets" <>
Mon, 11 Jan 1999 20:34:23 PST
I was interested to read the definition of subsong you quoted from
Landsborough Thomson's "Dictionary of Birds". I couldn't find any less
tentative definitions, but J.D. Macdonald in "Australian Birds: a
popular guide to bird life" (1980), page 17, writes of subsong or
"These subdued chatterings seem to have little social meaning for
they are often made by solitary birds and so quietly as to be inaubidle
to others at any distance. Subsongs I have recorded and played back to
members of the same species provoked no reaction, whereas other recorded
notes resulted in immediate consternation. Perhaps subsongs are just the
musings of birds singing to themselves, as we might hum over snippets of
tunes for no particularly important reason."
Maybe subsong is important as a means for birds to practise, experiment
with and develop their vocal ability without the consequences of other
birds hearing or reacting to them.
As an aside, Pauline Reilly in her book "The Lyrebird" lists on page 41,
approximately 41 Australian species which mimic and of these, nine were
noted to mimic in full song. Presumably the rest are likely to mimic in
subsong or perhaps under stress - the way I have heard a female lyrebird
give a sudden burst of kookaburra laughter when she realised I was close
to her nest.
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