Amongst the plethora of incredible feats possible by birds, their birdsong definitely sits pretty high up on the list.
Though birds learn their typical basic notes pretty quickly, many birds learn their songs pretty quickly after they have hatched, they build up on their song throughout their lifetime.
Many songs of birds are also incredibly complex and consist of sometimes even dozens of notes per second.
The songs don’t just vary with species either. They vary within species as well, depending on other factors like geography.
Just like we have accents for essentially the same language, so do birds have dialects depending on where they live!
But amongst the curious and peculiar details of birdsong, one fascinating part of it is where birds mimic other birds or creatures.
That’s right, not only do they know their own songs, they learn other birds’ as well! Not all species engage in this game of mimicry but with those who do, scientists are enraptured.
We don’t know the exact reason except for in a few cases why they engage in this behavior. If only they learned our language and could tell us themselves!
What we do know is still incredibly fascinating and today we are going to take an in-depth look at these mimicking birds and look at the what, why, and how of it all! Let’s get into it.
Best Mimicry Artists Of The Bird World
The northern mockingbird is one of the most famous birds in North America who are known for its incredible mimicking abilities.
It is an even more impressive feat when you consider their already incredible repertoire that consists of up to 200 songs.
Often referred to as the most accomplished mimic in the bird world, the northern mockingbird has the ability to mimic many North American bird species like the American robin, blue jays, and the Northern cardinal.
But their mimicry resume does not limit itself to birds, some mockingbirds were observed to imitate even tree frogs and crickets. Wicked!
African Grey Parrot
The African grey parrot is another incredible industry leader in mimicry with the ability to not only mimic birds but even humans, alarm calls, cell phone rings, and even, spaceship sounds.
They even have an impressible vocabulary with hundreds of words, though if they recognize the meaning of them or are just mimicking for the sake of a treat from their trainer, remains to be seen.
Though males are usually the vocally active ones in the community, there are species where females can do the mimicking like in the female Thick-billed Euphonia, a small finch-like songbird well known for its bright and vibrant colors as well as its incredibly deceitful mimicking abilities.
When a predator or any threat comes near their nest, the females of the species make noises like the alarm calls of other species as a way to get the attention of other species to help defend and protect them from the perceived threat.
The list goes on and on, Blue Jays are famous mimickers, imitating the sound of their predators, the red-shouldered hawks, though scientists have not been able to pinpoint a specific reason for this.
Scientists presume that they either do this to warn other jays of a threat nearby or more interestingly, as a clever tactic to keep other jays from taking their food resources.
Why Do Birds Mimic The Sounds Of Other Species?
Protecting Their Young Ones
One of the main reasons why birds imitate their predators’ call, like the screech of a hawk or an owl for songbirds, is to scare off other birds from approaching their nest.
When other birds approach the nesting young ones for the resources the parent birds kept aside for them, they might call out imitating these birds to trick the outsiders and keep their brood safe.
Boasting Their Intelligence To Their Mate
Birds are extremely intelligent creatures as is and this is a factor that plays in when they engage in rituals to impress a possible mate.
While their own songs are complicated as well, as they display their vocal range frivolously, being able to boast about knowing the songs of other birds is an even bigger flex of their intelligence. It is showing off its musical ability and its ability to protect and defend.
Defending Their Territory And Food Resources
The birds’ own songs play a huge role in their ability to defend their region and their families, and being able to imitate other birds is further proof of their strength and intelligence which can defer other birds from trying too hard to intrude.
And so instead of challenging the resident bird, they might just make their way long. The resident birds also keep birds away from the food supply they have hoarded for their family by uttering the predatory bird calls.
Blending In With the Flock
Many birds who learn their birdsong, often learn the songs of other birds in the flock and as they grow up this aspect becomes a crucial part of when they themselves form flocks, defend territories, safeguard food resources, and so on.
Birds mimic for a variety of reasons, from showing off their strength and intelligence, to scaring off other birds from their food, and alerting others of danger.
Whatever the exact reason might be, it is still fascinating to see this phenomenon happening in real life.
We hope you learned something new today about this peculiar behavior of birds.
Thank you for reading!
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