I’ve been teaching bird diversity and pigeon dissections for the past two weeks, so I thought I should post a fun bird blog. This one focuses on song mimicry. The article link is to an information page about bird songs through the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, which is a really amazing birding website. When I was an avian field technician, I learned three main birds that use mimicry in their songs: the gray catbird, brown thrasher, and the northern mockingbird. I was taught to tell them apart based on the number of repetitions per sound. Gray Catbirds repeat sounds 1-2 times, Brown Thrashers repeat 2-3 times, and Northern Mockingbirds usually do between 3-6 repetitions. I linked the birds to their Cornell page with song recordings, so you can try to tell the differences for yourself.
BUT! The greatest mimic is the Lyre bird. VIDEO! (obviously narrated by none other than David Attenborough). Lyre birds have the ability to mimic an astounding array of bird noises AND man-made noises like chainsaws and cameras with motor drives.
The article link talks a little about mimicry at the end and how a bird’s song repertoire varies. Brown thrashers have the ability to sing over 2,000 songs! Apparently some birds are born with the genetic blueprint for their songs and develop the normal repertoire for their species regardless of which bird species raise them. However, some birds learn their songs through other birds. So, many birds will sing a different song than what is normal for their species if that is the only type of song they have been exposed to. These types of birds learn their songs during a “sensitive period” that can last up to a few months, but some birds can continue to alter their songs throughout their lifetime.
I hope you learned a little more about your feathered friends. I did a previous blog about human language mirroring some qualities seen in bird songs. If you are interested, you can read about it here: You’re Such a Bird Brain – Why, Thank you! Have a great week!