Re: Subsong

Subject: Re: Subsong
From: "Carol Probets" <>
Date: Mon, 11 Jan 1999 20:34:23 PST
Dear Syd,

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.

Regards, Carol.

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