I agree with your first point and have already written on that. The second
point is quite interesting too I'll have to check up on what those nine are,
I suspect it is an underestimate. Chisholm, years ago compiled I think a
longer list of "mimics". I think it is relevant that Brown Thornbills are
often reported to indulge in bouts of vocal mimicry whilst being handled for
banding. I have previously requested info on this before on this line but
haven't done anything with it.
From: Carol Probets <>
Date: Tuesday, 12 January 1999 15:41
Subject: Re: Subsong
>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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