Avian vocal mimicry

To: "Syd Curtis" <>, "Birding-aus" <>
Subject: Avian vocal mimicry
From: "Philip Veerman" <>
Date: Sun, 16 Jul 2006 16:42:46 +1000
I concur fully with what Syd writes. I guess the point is that in the refs he 
uses, the term is defined as an abbreviation, with a specific (narrow) meaning 
and if it is understood as such, then fine. Given that specific use, it is OK. 
That simply gets around the problem that the way we bird people use the word 
doesn't match with the broader use of the word. Yes I agree most bird people 
talking about "avian vocal mimicry", use the word "mimicry" as short for it. 
Yet that only highlights that it worth pointing out that it is just a word and 
doesn't really relate to the broader biological use of the word. This is why 
the article I referred to by Dobkin is so important, because it does explain 
the implications of different behaviours and gives a name for each.

It is also interesting and correct to note that in the bits that Syd cites 
"Mimicry vocal" does NOT include the aspect of "advantageous resemblance" that 
is included in the definition of "Mimicry". Which is my point exactly. The 
Regent Honeyeater's behaviour does appear to be consistent with "advantageous 
resemblance". And so may, just possibly, the behaviour of birds in mimicking 
calls of dangerous species in particular circumstances, if there is some 
demonstrable benefit in doing so. Though it is hard to be sure about that. Yes 
Syd's point is also true about lyrebirds learning their "mimicry" by copying 
mature lyrebirds. That is an interesting refinement of this copying behaviour.


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