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Betty the Butterfly's Blog >>

Meerkats Tricked In The Kalahari

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Common Drongo

Recent studies looking into the behaviours of Drongos in the Kalahari desert in Africa, have revealed some remarkable findings. The scientists conducting the analysis watched in amazement as these crafty birds mimicked the alarm calls from other species in order to trick other animals into thinking that a dangerous predator was in the area, making them run away and leaving the Drongo free to steal their food.

Although the Common Drongo has been observed taunting a variety of hungry animals, it appears to favour pestering meerkats above all else. The Drongos have been seen following them around until they unearth a decent meal, at which point the bird will start mimicking the alarm calls made by other species, startling the meerkats and sending them running off to hide, leaving the Drongos with their hard-earned lunch.

Meerkat On Watch
Scientists suggest that by mimicking the sounds of a variety of different species, makes the Drongo's trickery seem more believable as the meerkats won't become wise to their ways so easily. Although the exact reasons for this behaviour are still unclear, some suggest that it is simply the birds using their intelligence in order to get the most amount of food for the least amount of work, as they have similar diets to meerkats after all.

The researchers conducting the study, carefully watched 100 Drongo individuals and, much to their surprise, found that nearly all of the birds mimicked a variety of alarm calls from a number of different species, including meerkats. Despite being quite bizarre, this method of hunting actually proves effective for the Drongos as it means they spend the minimal amount of time on the ground in reach of dangerous predators.

Safety In Numbers
Despite what we think we already know about parrots being able to "talk", this is actually one of the first studies that has been conducted that shows a practical use in the natural world for vocal mimickery. It is thought that roughly 20% of all of the world's songbirds mimic sounds made by other species, but very little is actually known about why they are doing it. It seems that the cunning use of mimickery by the Drongos in the Kalahari, is more interesting to science than first thought.

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