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Mimicry.

Posted by Pete Woodruff. 
Mimicry.
June 25, 2005 03:04PM
On Monday 20 June I was walking in the Borrowdale Valley in the Tebay area when I passed an isolated small tree. As I walked on and left the tree behind me a bird broke into song which at first I failed to identify. However I soon took it to be a Common Whitethroat. As I backtracked to the tree a bird flew out before I could actually observe it, and went some distance before alighting on bracken. Even before I put binoculars to my eyes I identified the bird to be a male Whinchat...I was confused and left with two options....

1) There were two birds in the tree, A singing Common Whitethroat, and a silent Whinchat, neither of which I had seen.

2) I was observing a personal first.

Contining on the walk I reached the point where I had decided to end the outward and do the return leg. On reaching the tree again where I had heard what I thought was a Common Whitethroat in song an hour earlier. A bird was atop of the tree. To my amazement a male Whinchat was now in full view singing the song - almost to perfection- of a Common Whitethroat.

Only the male Whinchat sings and has a complex, wide, and extensive repertoire of units in its song which can also contain mimicry of a wide number of bird species including, Skylark, Willow Warbler, and Sedge Warbler, and other examples which could be quoted. Even more suprising was one individual that was found to have learned to mimic the call of Common Swift. The male Whinchats mimicry is often so good that it cannot be discerned from the species mimicked.

It was option two, and I had observed a personal first and feel the lesson learned here was....next time I hear a Common Whitethroat in song in suitable Whinchat habitat perhaps I had better see the bird first before entering it into my records.



Pete Woodruff. 25 June 2005.
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