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Amazing alarm call by myna used to cry wolf

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Old Wednesday 20th May 2020, 22:05   #1
chefette
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Amazing alarm call by myna used to cry wolf

I write about an amazing thing about myna birds and hope someone has seen this before and/or knows about it.

We live in a ground floor apartment, with a large garden off the veranda, this is in Fiji.

Several months ago we befriended a wild kitten and began to feed it twice a day. We also feed the myna birds and some bull bulls.

A pair of young myna birds probably brother and sister have taken our veranda as their territory and patrol it daily chirping for some food, they bow to us and we bow back a friendship sign we believe. When the cat turns up for food they make 2 load shrieks that must be an alarm call for a cat and they and all other birds take to the trees en-mass. They also have a separate alarm call for the hawks that fly over daily.

After a short time up to 15 myna birds and 10 bull bulls would congregate to try and get food, our 2 residents would try and chase them away but in doing so allowed the others to steal the food.

Within 3 weeks we noticed the 2 residents would issue a loud cat alarm and the other birds would leave in a hurry, however our 2 regulars would stay and eat the food, no cat arrived.

Every time we fed these 2 the others would arrive in seconds and they made the cat alarm call, basically they were calling WOLF.
A remarkable ploy by a myna we thought to chase away the competition.

Several more weeks of calling WOLF passed and then some of the bull bulls stayed to feed and other birds originally scared away would return quickly. A few more weeks and the WOLF call has no affect on any of the birds.

Often our tame (wild) cat watches the birds from the veranda and they just fly away without the alarm call when they see her

So 2 birds learned to use the alarm call to protect their food and the other birds soon learned the scam.

Anyone know about this?

Thanks
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Old Saturday 23rd May 2020, 14:42   #2
King Edward
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Very interesting behaviour you've observed there. I think I've seen a nature documentary (probably an Attenborough one) with similar 'crying wolf' behaviour. Can't remember the exact species but it was one where a sentinel keeps watch for predators while the others feed. Occasionally the sentinel will issue a false alarm call to allow it to swoop down and grab a particular item of food while the others flee for cover.

Obviously it's a trick that can only be pulled off so often - too frequently and the others will stop responding as you observed.
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Old Saturday 23rd May 2020, 22:06   #3
chefette
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Interesting that it has been seen before as we would have thought many people would have observed this or something similar.

It would be nice to find out if this is a learning process here or if it something that they are hard wired with at birth. Somebody must be doing research on this type of behavior.
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Old Sunday 24th May 2020, 00:31   #4
Jeff hopkins
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Quote:
Originally Posted by King Edward View Post
Very interesting behaviour you've observed there. I think I've seen a nature documentary (probably an Attenborough one) with similar 'crying wolf' behaviour. Can't remember the exact species but it was one where a sentinel keeps watch for predators while the others feed. Occasionally the sentinel will issue a false alarm call to allow it to swoop down and grab a particular item of food while the others flee for cover.

Obviously it's a trick that can only be pulled off so often - too frequently and the others will stop responding as you observed.
I've heard about Blue Jays doing that. Don't know if it was in an Attenborough documentary, tho.
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Old Sunday 24th May 2020, 08:54   #5
foresttwitcher
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I believe the Attenborough documentary may have referred to an African species of Drongo playing tricks on Meerkats: http://youtu.be/tEYCjJqr21A
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Old Sunday 24th May 2020, 11:09   #6
King Edward
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Originally Posted by foresttwitcher View Post
I believe the Attenborough documentary may have referred to an African species of Drongo playing tricks on Meerkats: http://youtu.be/tEYCjJqr21A
Yes, I think that was probably it. Couldn't remember the details.
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Old Friday 29th May 2020, 00:20   #7
chefette
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Many thanks for that link, it is very similar to what we have observed.
We could try and film the occurrence but it has gone through several stages so we may not now be able to get the whole process.
I will try and get the alarm call on film.
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Old Today, 00:56   #8
chefette
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Here is the video but I had to shrink it to mpeg and it loses some quality but at the end after the alarm calls you can see the birds still on the path with the food when the pictures get brighter and the rest have gone, some can also be seen returning quickly.

Hope you can see it OK

You may need to save it and try different players.
Attached Files
File Type: mpeg Alarm_2.mpeg (952.0 KB, 1 views)

Last edited by chefette : Today at 01:00. Reason: added players section
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