Making an impression

Urban living provides lots of unusual sounds for Starlings to copy

Many thanks for your feedback following our request for information about mimicking Starlings. It seems that they will copy all sorts of noises and Blackbirds have also been getting in on the act. Here are some of your weird and wonderful tales:

A few years ago on the day our eldest daughter started school whilst I was busy with housework, I was stopped by the sound of our daughter crying. I thought she must have got out of school and walked half a mile up a busy main road all by herself, aged five. As I listened in the lounge near the fireplace I realised the crying was coming down the chimney and was followed by the sound of hens, sheep and ‘phone ringing!  Much relieved I soon realised that it was just our local Starling, which followed all this with 'Here Trixie' several times – luckily our dog took no notice! Cindy Kingham

I have never heard a Starling mimic another bird but I have heard them mimic a Trimphone and a spray paint tin being shaken. This was so real we thought our neighbour was getting ready to spray his car! Les Foster

I have a Starling that mimics the call of a female Tawny Owl, a bit startling in broad daylight! The same thing happened two or three years ago, so I suppose it could be the same bird. Betty Maton

We haven't noticed any Starlings mimicking other birds but we have one who incorporates a 'toodle-oodle-oo' into his regular repertoire. We think he might be mimicking a ‘phone ringtone. We've also heard one mimic the sound of ambulance sirens as they leave the nearby hospital. My husband observed a different bird (not around here) copying the beeping noise emitted by a reversing truck. Mary Payne

We have a local Blackbird who sings the lorry reversing tune (not a straight series of beeps, but the tune which has a complete phrase of notes repeating as the lorries back up). When I first heard it a few weeks ago, it was a delightful surprise. There are now at least another two birds within 100 metres or so also replying with the same song. About 3/4 mile away in a friend's garden there is another Blackbird also singing the reversing song and a second bird answering with the same call.

I note that this isn't an unusual phenomenon (YouTube has a video of a Blackbird singing this song - from a completely different area than ours). It was very cute at first, but at times the incessant repeating is less than delightful!
Michèle Welborn

A few years ago I was walking along my suburban road in Birmingham and could hear a Magpie and the alarm sound of a Blackbird coming from a small roadside tree.  As I drew closer to see what all the trouble was about it was just a Starling mimicking both birds and singing its head off. Martin Cross

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