When you hear the call of a fairy wren, honeyeater or crimson rosella in the Australian bush, you may not see the bird you’re expecting.
The little brown thornbill (Acanthiza pusilla) protects its young by using vocal mimicry to trick its predator into thinking that they themselves are under attack, researchers have found.
It does this by mimicking a chorus of other species’ alarm calls that are normally used to warn of an approaching hawk, according to a study published in today’s Royal Society journal Proceedings B.
“Simulating a chorus of alarm calling species is scarier than producing your own alarm calls alone,” says ornithologist Dr Branislav Igic, of the University of Akron in Ohio.
“It more reliably signals a very scary predator.”