Birds answer mobile phones
By Simon Goodley
BRITISH birds have begun singing
tunes they have picked up from mobile phone ringtones as part of a bizarre
mating ritual, according to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
The starling - a distant relation of the mynah bird and the "most adept at
mimicry" - is leading the chorus. Other love birds prone to covering other
people's songs include the song thrush, the blackbird and the marsh warbler.
Andrew South, a spokesman for the RSPB, said: "Starlings have copied sheepdog
whistles, drills and now they are mimicking mobile phones." The reason for such
behaviour stems from the most basic instinct of all, he said, as male starlings
which sing a greater range of notes are more attractive to female starlings.
The Danish Ornithological Society has also received reports of its birds singing
along with the phones, and the topic made the main Danish television evening
news last week.
Knud Flensted, an ecologist at the society, said: "It's a fact that some birds
are copying the sound of a mobile. We had a case around 10 years ago when a
starling immitated the whistle of a guard at a train station, which caused the
train to move off before it should have."
The birds, however, have not yet mastered full renditions of television theme
tunes currently among the popular ringtones on teenagers' mobiles. The birds
either mimic simple rings or pick up notes from more complex tunes.
Their singing talent has even helped the UK starling population which has
declined by around 50pc in recent years. The RSPB said anything which gets
starlings in the mood for love and slows their decline is positive.
The real winners are likely to be the operators and artists who compose the
tunes. The European market for Bringing fun to the phone will be worth £1
billion this year, according to a report by researcher Strand Consult.