Photo Galleries, Photographer of the Year. Pied babblers were presented with three mealworms impaled on a thorn to increase handling time since the babbler had to remove them before eating. Meerkats were provisioned with a live scorpion (of genus Opistophthalamus) collected at the field site and handled with tongs; meerkats commonly eat scorpions. Bird watching at Parc Palais condominium. Shapiro–Wilk tests were used to determine if data were distributed normally and Levene's tests were used to ensure the homogeneity of variances of the data. With, fantastic endemic and migratory birds, the forest is a magical place.” Swaroop Bharadwaj another well known birder says, “The Racket – tailed Drongo is a forest bird species and can be seen in the forest of Bannerghatta national park and in the Western Ghats. Furthermore, the racket-tailed drongo is known to learn the alarm calls of other species, employing these in true alarm contexts [19], and fork-tailed drongos also appear to do this (Flower in preparation). The drongo-specific and mimicked calls made in false alarms were structurally indistinguishable from calls made during true alarms at predators by drongos and other species. In all cases, I recorded whether the foraging attempt was successful. The drongo study populations' range overlapped with the territories of 11 meerkat and 10 pied babbler groups, with which the drongos associated during the study period. These deceptive alarm calls are likely to work because the cost to target species of ignoring drongo true alarms is greater than the cost of responding to false alarms [9,26]. Structural comparison of drongo-specific chink alarm calls revealed that they were not significantly different when recorded in true and false alarms made by the same individual (paired MANOVA: F2,10 = 0.92, p = 0.627, n = 12). Meerkat groups ranged in size from 5 to 27 individuals and pied babbler groups from 3 to 14 individuals. Despite the prevalence of vocal mimicry in animals, few functions for this behaviour have been shown. Playbacks were undertaken to 20 meerkats in 10 groups and 20 pied babblers in 10 groups. Furthermore, meerkats and pied babblers did not differ in the likelihood they abandoned food in response to the true glossy starling and false drongo-mimic alarm calls, but were more likely to do so in response to these calls than to non-alarm calls (figure 3b,d). Drongos (n = 25) spent 27 ± 3% of their foraging time following target species including pied babblers (mean 15% following time, range 0–68%) and less frequently, meerkats (mean 1% following time, range 0–7%). In 31 ± 5% of these false alarms drongos exclusively made drongo-specific alarm calls; in 42 ± 6% drongos exclusively made suspected mimicked alarm calls; and in 27 ± 6% drongos made a combination of both drongo-specific and suspected mimicked alarm calls. (a) Meerkats (n = 20) responded for longer and (b) were more likely to abandon food, in response to playback of false (drongo-mimicked) and true glossy starling alarm calls than to non-alarm calls of these species, but did not differ in their response to the false (drongo-mimicked) and true glossy starling alarm calls (LMM response time: χ23 = 50.44, p < 0.001; GLMM abandon food: χ23 = 11.72, p = 0.008 (see electronic supplementary material S2, table S3)). The Department of Environment and Conservation for Northern Province, SA provided authorization for my work (FAUNA 270/2008) and the Percy Fitzpatrick Institute, University of Cape Town provided ethical permission (2010/V20/TF). Photo credits: T. Flower, M. Boerner.Download figureOpen in new tabDownload powerPoint. Mimicry could be particularly advantageous in this system, since deceptive signals typically become ineffective when made too frequently relative to honest signals [8] and by changing their false alarm calls, a species could maintain deception. However, alarms may vary in their reliability, drongos are likely to differ in their call repertoires and individuals may strategically adjust their alarms to match target species, or even make some call types infrequently to maintain their efficacy. The phrase ‘mimicked call’ thus refers to notes/calls in the racket-tailed drongo's repertoire classified as mimicked based on the aural and visual perception of a highly trained listener (SA).