Mimicry by Magpie

To: "Birding-aus \(E-mail\)" <>
Subject: Mimicry by Magpie
From: "Philip Veerman" <>
Date: Fri, 6 Apr 2007 14:31:00 +1000
Gisela Kaplan on TV recently (and probably in her book?) claims that Australian 
Magpies have exceptional mimicry (actually vocal copying) abilities. Can't say 
I have noticed it much or thought it anything terribly special, compared with 
other birds that do this. This week near my suburban Canberra home, I walked 
within about a metre of a male Magpie sitting on the fence doing subsong 
imitation (interspersed with normal song), of various bird calls. He was non 
concerned about me being so close (as they usually are). Within about 5 
minutes, those that I believe I could recognise were Masked Lapwing, Laughing 
Kookaburra, Grey Butcherbird and generalised rosella calls. Even from so close 
it wasn't easy to hear. Strangely the bird called most as bunches of cars drove 
past, then tended to go quiet during the gaps in the traffic. I can't assign 
any statistical significance (or even behavioural significance) to that latter 
aspect. He then flew down to the nature strip and started foraging. As is usual 
for subsong mimicry for most birds, the singing was not directed at any other 
birds, I doubt that any other magpies or copied species were within earshot. 
Indeed of those it was copying, only the rosellas are residents anywhere near 
the location.


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