I would say instead that birds would learn the threat calls of other species
and respond to them. I guess it would be like living in a country where you
don't speak the language. You can still tell that a group of locals
standing around a bush screaming means something is wrong. I'd say pishing
works on the same principle, though of course not all birds respond to it in
the same way. Back to your question, I would think the primary purpose of
the magpies' calls was not to attract other birds, but to let the Monitor
know it had been seen and they weren't going to let it sneak up on anything.
The secondary benefit of attracting other birds to aid in harassing the
monitor is no doubt also very useful.
On Fri, Oct 15, 2010 at 6:53 PM, Ralph Reid <>wrote:
> Hi all,
> Several years ago I was on a property west of Wagga Wagga and my attention
> was drawn to two magpies screaming in a small eucalypt. A closer view
> revealed a lace monitor about 3 metres up the tree (I don't know if the
> magpies had a nest there, the foliage was sparse but I could not see one).
> What suprised me, though, was that the magpie's alarm calls quickly drew 5
> birds of 3 different species (white-browed babbler, magpie lark, crested
> pigeon) who all joined in hurling abuse at the monitor.
> Were the magpie's alarm calls an example of a 'common threat warning'
> shared by the different species?
> Ralph Reid
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