Despite its tiny size, the brown thornbill is quite capable of protecting itself in the wild. Its survival strategy is simple yet effective – it scares other birds away by ‘crying hawk’!
It seems that most birds use certain calls to warn their kin of impending danger, especially when hawks and other birds of prey are approaching. The thornbill is not only aware of this fact, but can reproduce the danger signals of several species, including the much larger pied currawong. Predators are fooled by the false alarm, and the thornbill earns its chicks a few extra seconds to escape.
The thornbill’s talent for mimicry was discovered by researchers from the Australian National University (ANU). “I am amazed that such a tiny bird can mimic so many species, some much bigger than itself. It’s very cunning,” said one of the researchers, Dr. Branislav Igic.