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2294 Views 3 Replies Last post: Jun 26, 2013 3:02 PM by <\> RSS
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Jun 23, 2013 10:01 PM

Are the birds stealing our whistles?

Does anyone know of any research done to determine if more common birds (as opposed to Myner and Parrots) emulate human whistles and incorporate them into their songs?

Recently i have been out and about recording birdsong to use in pieces music. Always fascinated by sound, birdsong takes on a positively haunting feel when slowed down below normal speed. But whilst recording, i've noticed a bird uses the precise 'Wolf-whistle' in it's song and also the exact reversal of these two notes to create what we commonly know as the 'Come Here' whistle!! Unfortunately i couldn't actually see the birds in question, but by the Thames i'm assuming they were not some of the 1000's of green parrots who's brief 'squark' i'm pretty familiar with!

Is this coincidence? Or is it possible these birds are repeating what they have heard from a human down below them?


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    Jun 22, 2013 4:31 PM (in response to <\>)
    Re: Are the birds stealing our whistles?

    I've heard starlings do something like a wolf whistle, just recently in fact, but I've no idea whether they inherited or acquired the call

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      Jun 24, 2013 11:21 AM (in response to jaguarondi)
      Re: Are the birds stealing our whistles?


      Most wild parrots don't mimic human or other nonspecific sounds, but other birds do. Starlings are excellent mimics and males are known to use all sorts of sounds in their songs, including human voice, typewriter, sirens, etc. I wouldn't be surprised if a starling was doing the wolf-wistle. Ravens also play with sounds. In "Mind of the Raven" Bernd Heinrich describes the case of a wild raven who was mimicking a male voice counting down and then an explosion. It was copying the sound it heard from workers in an anti-avalanche team who detonated small charges to trigger avalanches. Another mimic here in Britain is the Jay, who naturally mimics all sorts of nonspecific sounds. I've heard them doing the Buzzard call, the blackbird alarm call, also cat, lamb, etc.

      Wild Lyrebirds also pick up all sorts of artificial sounds in their environment.

      I think your bird was most likely a starling, but you say you didn't see the bird, so maybe it was some human doing that? Starlings are related to Mynah birds (family Sturnidae) and when kept as pets they can talk like parrots.



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