Mimicry by Grey Butcherbird and others (was Grey Butcherbird mimicry)

To: "michael norris" <>, <>
Subject: Mimicry by Grey Butcherbird and others (was Grey Butcherbird mimicry)
From: "Margaret Cameron" <>
Date: Fri, 2 Apr 2010 09:03:21 +1000
Thanks for remembering my previous posting Michael, I enjoyed your report! I've changed the subject line in case I cause the thread to travel away from the Grey Butcherbird.

Although I still have Grey Butcherbirds in my garden regularly (usually lurking in the same tree) I've never heard mimicry again - but then I'm often not here. Craig Morley reminded me that he published a similar observation of a Grey Butcherbird in Eastern Park, Geelong, in the Geelong Naturalist.

It is a puzzle to me - and, I find, to real ornithologists - why they do it. When I was a beginner birdwatcher in Sydney I remember Alec Chisholm collecting mimicry records; he maintained that the Chestnut-rumped Heathwren was the best. There is a good discussion in J.D.Macdonald's Birds for beginners: how birds live and behave (Reed,1980) including a paragraph entitled "Mimicry perhaps functionless". He does not mention a theory I have read somewhere else that predators mimic little birds so the little birds will come up to see what is happening and the predator can grab them, or they will lead the predator to their nest. We know this is not true of our Grey Butcherbirds as ours mimic big birds.

Near Helidon (Southeast Queensland) yesterday 1 April we heard an Olive-backed Oriole mimicking small birds - Weebill, Speckled Warbler, Silvereye, White-browed Scrubwren, fairy-wren. It did not mimic any of the numerous big birds also in the area. Orioles do take nestlings (HANZAB); Red-backed Fairy-Wrens close by appeared to be taking food to a nest and were certainly very nervous but we thought this was because of us.

After my March 2007 posting someone wrote who was studying Pied Butcherbird vocalizations. Sorry I've lost your name but maybe by now you have a theory?

Margaret Cameron
2 Cintra Street
Eastern Heights, Qld
Australia 4305
07 3282 9151

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