Why do many migratory bird species that breed in Europe sing extravagant songs on their wintering grounds in tropical Africa, thousands of miles away from where they attract their mates? Dr Marjorie Sorensen‘s PhD field research on great reed warblers (left) in Zambia points to an intriguing answer: they’re practicing! Read more in articles about the study in New Scientist, The Atlantic and Science News or in the original paper by Marjorie Sorensen, Susanne Jenni-Eiermann and Claire Spottiswoode, available in The American Naturalist.
In a new paper published in Evolution, Dr Gabriel Jamie along with Silky Hamama, Collins Moya and Prof. Claire Spottiswoode from the African Cuckoos team and collaborators from University of Puerto Rico (Steven Van Belleghem), Princeton University (Dr Cassie Stoddard and Dr Ben Hogan) and University of Cambridge (Professor Rebecca Kilner) provide evidence of host-specific mimicry in the indigobirds and whydahs of Africa. Building on the pioneering work of Robert Payne and Jürgen Nicolai, they provide quantitative evidence that nestling Vidua finches mimic the patterns, colours and begging calls of their host’s nestling, and qualitative evidence of mimicry of host movements.