birding-aus Rufous Scrubbird Mimicry

To: John Leonard <>
Subject: birding-aus Rufous Scrubbird Mimicry
From: (Syd Curtis)
Date: Wed, 15 Sep 1999 07:28:20 +1000
Hello John,

        Apropos your search for the "elusive Rufous Scrub-bird" you wrote:

>Two points about using the tape:
>1. The Buckingham and Jackson Tape has a RSB using mimicry, of White-browed
>Srcubwrens and Brown Thornbills, amongst others. When we used the tape we
>found that we were suddenly surrounded by Thornbills and Scrubwrens
>responding to the mimincry, this happened on a couple of occasions!

I don't know what bearing it has on the effectiveness of the tape, which I
have not heard, but it needs to be kept in mind that with Rufous
Scrub-birds (unlike the lyrebirds) mimicry is not part of their normal
breeding season song but a response to human intrusion.

It is possible that it also happens in response to other forms of
disturbance, but this would not be simple to determine: if there is a human
observer present to notice the other disturbance and the mimicry, how can
the observer be sure he is not the cause of the mimicry?

Because of the strong reaction of the Scrubwrens and Thornbills, clearly
the mimicry was good enough for them to accept it as Scrubwren/Thornbill
calls.  So why would a Scrub-bird think it was another Scrub-bird ...
unless the tape also contains actual Scrub-bird calls.  Does it?

Before I retired from the Q. NP&WS (in '88), I had the pleasant task of
revising the Queensland National Parks regulations.  One new one that I
drafted and which  has survived into the current regulations under the
Nature Conservation Act is Regulation 88.(2):

        "(2)  A person must not use a radio, tape recorder or other sound
or amplifier system in a way that may cause unreasonable disturbance to a
person or native animal in a protected area.

"Maximum penalty - 50 penalty units."

It was generally assumed that this was intended to control the use of loud
music in camping and picnic areas, and there certainly is a need to be able
to exercise some control in that direction.  I vividly remember taking
Olivier Messiaen, the French composer/ornithologist genius, to hear
lyrebirds.  We arrived at the national park just before daylight to be
greeted by a blast of pop music.  I was told by French-speaking friends who
were with us, that Messiaen's comments were far from polite!

But I digress.  The real reason behind my drafting that reg. was to be able
to control, if necessary, the use of play-back of song to the distress of
birds defending a breeding season territory.  Don't know if its ever been
used, but it could be.

And in case you are wondering, a penalty unit was then $50, but I think
it's been increased since.  (The fiendishly cunning idea of expressing
fines as penalty units is that the government can, with a simple one line
amendment, increase all fines so expressed in all the statutes.)

But don't worry if you are thinking of using play-back in a Queensland
National Park. I can't see a Magistrate awarding the 50 unit maximum
penalty just for annoying a bird.  You probably wouldn't bring more than
40!  :-)


Syd Curtis at Hawthorne in Qld.

H Syd Curtis

To unsubscribe from this list, please send a message to

Include ONLY "unsubscribe birding-aus" in the message body (without the

<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>

The University of NSW School of Computer and Engineering takes no responsibility for the contents of this archive. It is purely a compilation of material sent by many people to the birding-aus mailing list. It has not been checked for accuracy nor its content verified in any way. If you wish to get material removed from the archive or have other queries about the archive e-mail Andrew Taylor at this address: andrewt@cse.unsw.EDU.AU