Fw: The Mouse

To: Greg <>
Subject: Fw: The Mouse
From: Penny Brockman <>
Date: Sun, 11 Feb 2007 13:20:01 +1100
Dear Birders

I watched Striated Grasswrens (3 occasions) performing these distraction displays, 2 within a metre of my feet, in Gluepot Reserve S.Australia when doing Mallee Transect Surveys in March/April 2002 - in both cases they had chick hiding in spinifex. But when there last November, I was trying to photograph a male grasswren who was hiding in a 2 metre tall shrub. He kept moving to the far side of the shrub as I walked round it, so I gave up and started walking back to the car, whereupon I heard squeaking from a low clump of spinifex at my feet, out of which crawled a very small almost tailless chick, which sat on the top. The male promptly flew out of his shrub and landed on the ground the other side of the spinifex, calling urgently to the chick, which vanished back into the spinifex. He didn't perform any distraction movements aimed at me, only telling the chick to get out of sight immediately, and flew straight back into his safe shrub. I wasn't able to sex the 2002 birds
I would suggest that the wren's behaviour is a 'distraction display'. It is unlikely to be imitating a mouse but is behaving in an unusual manner to distract a predator from its young just as a Red-capped Plover feins a wing injury or a Pied Oystercatcher lays on the sand flapping its wings. Your squeak may resemble an alarm call and this would initiate the behaviour. I have had fairy-wrens behave in this manner when one or more of the group is being removed from a mist net for banding.

Greg Clancy

G'day Birders,
I was watching a wonderful display by a male variegated wren in my front garden yesterday, as I 'squeaked it did the 'mouse' as fairy-wrens often do. This is where the bird scurries around on the ground or on low vegetation with the tail on the ground and looks like a mouse, jennies do it best, I've never seen a blue and red mouse which is what this variegated was trying to look like. Which brought me to the question, why? Why do they do this? I mean it looks great from a human perspective but how can it help the birds? And it is the jennies that do it more often, though yesterdays display was lead by the male, who seems to scold and chase off the jennies when they started to join in on the act.


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