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Biol Lett. 2010 October 23; 6(5): 626–629.
Published online 2010 March 17. doi:  10.1098/rsbl.2010.0093
PMCID: PMC2936137

Vocal mimicry in male bowerbirds: who learns from whom?

Abstract

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

Articles from Biology Letters are provided here courtesy of The Royal Society