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The bootloader only knows what it's configuration file tells it. Grub uses /boot/grub/menu.lst and Lilo uses /etc/lilo.conf, some distros include GUI tools that will let you set these up and some have some form of auto-detection, the bootloader itself doesn't do this.
Depends on the installer as to whether or not it looks for other distros. No real problem though, what I do for each new distro I install (and I havea few running) is to create symbolic lings in each /boot to the kernel image (typically vmlinuz) and initrd, and manually add the new distro to the grub menu that I installed with the first distr0. This means that I have to add 4 lines each time.
Title new distro
kernel (hd0,7)/boot/vmlinuz root=/dev/sdb8 ro
or similar. Easy.
that said, if the second you chose to install was ubuntu for ewxample, it would find the other distros. Issue always will be what happens when you update the "other" distro. This is where my scheme works. Each time I install a new kernel, I just update the links and the bootloader will just work.
Distribution: Mandriva 2009 X86_64 suse 11.3 X86_64 Centos X86_64 Debian X86_64 Linux MInt 86_64 OS X
In my opinion it depends on the distros you use Suse for instance stated that during installation she try to put the other distro in the boot loader too Yesterday I install Mandriva 2008 spring even my other distro who are on different drives she automaticly put suse an Fedora 8 and windows in the boot loader