Posted by: Ross Gardner | February 13, 2012

The master mimic

Siskin (Carduelis spinus). Ross Gardner

Yes, you have have seen that picture on this blog before, but it’s the only one of a Siskin that I have, so it has been given another airing.

For any familiar with the sounds made by these small finches, they will be known as being rather vocal birds.  For those unfamiliar with the the Siskin’s song, have a listen here (the siskin is the chattering call you can hear, not the fluty song of the thrush in the background).  They are wonderfully noisy little things.  The song consists of a great variety of rapidly emitted chatterings , chirps, buzzes and churrs.  Just a half-dozen sat among the branches of some birch tree can sound more as if there are 30-odd squabbling overhead in every direction from where you are standing.

Never before however, have I had them down as such masterly mimics of other bird sounds, which unfortunately isn’t captured by the RSPB link above.  Such habits are well-known among Siskin, but the individual that I sat listening to at Meadowfield today was of positively Starlingesque proportions in terms of vocal trickery and convincing mimicry.  At first it had me looking among the hedgerows for the Fieldfare that I thought had finished gorging on the old windfallen apples at the top of the field and were now chack-chacking beside me.  Then my ears pricked to the clear, fluty whistle and the first ever record for the site of a Nuthatch; this Siskin, it seems, may have been spending time in the nearby woods.  By the time I picked out the supposed distant yaffle of Green Woodpecker I had wised up to the joke.

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