Vocal mimicry is one of the more striking aspects of avian vocalization and is widespread across songbirds. However, little is known about how mimics acquire heterospecific and environmental sounds. We investigated geographical and individual variation in the mimetic repertoires of males of a proficient mimic, the spotted bowerbird Ptilonorhynchus maculatus. Male bower owners shared more of their mimetic repertoires with neighbouring bower owners than with more distant males. However, interbower distance did not explain variation in the highly repeatable renditions given by bower owners of two commonly mimicked species. From the similarity between model and mimic vocalizations and the patterns of repertoire sharing among males, we suggest that the bowerbirds are learning their mimetic repertoire from heterospecifics and not from each other.
Keywords: vocal mimicry, geographical variation, repertoire