Category Archives: Bird Behavior

Not With My Relatives

Two scythebill species: black-billed (left), red-billed (right) (from Wikimedia Commons)

When deforestation and climate change destroy swaths of habitat, some people assume that birds will be OK because, unlike mammals, they can fly to new locations.

However a 2012 study of two closely related scythebills discovered that the displaced birds don’t survive, even in habitat like the ones they left, because they’re out-competed by the locals.

On Throw Back Thursday, find out why these birds can’t survive near their relatives in this vintage blog: Why Don’t They Just Move?

(photos from Wikimedia Commons; click on the caption links to see the originals)

Luring Fish With His Cape

Black heron at Marievale Nature Reserve, South Africa (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

A black dome of feathers stands hunched in a marsh in Africa.

Odd as he looks, he’s ignored by the cattle egrets.

Black heron near cattle egrets at Marievale Nature Reserve, South Africa (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

When he raises his head you can see he’s a black heron (Egretta ardesiaca).

Black heron raises his head at Marievale Nature Reserve, South Africa (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

His cape lures the fish to the darkened water and cuts the glare so he can see below. This behavior is called canopy feeding.

Watch him in action in the tweet below.

(photos from Wikimedia Commons; click on the captions to see the originals)

Laughing All The Way

What would make two kookaburras shout at the top of their lungs on a balcony in Queensland, Australia?

Were they trying to get the attention of the person inside the apartment? It certainly worked! He came out and offered food to the gathering flock.

The birds were laughing all the way.

p.s. The kookaburras laugh is a territorial song. It means, “This is mine!”

(video from Cockatiel Companion and The Pheasantasiam on YouTube)

Why Do Peregrines Dive So Fast?

Peregrine tucked for a dive (photo by Chad+Chris Saladin)

Peregrine falcons are famous as the fastest animal on earth, diving at more than 200 miles an hour (320 km/h) to capture prey.

Most of the time they don’t travel that fast and are still successful hunters. What prompts a peregrine to stoop at top speed?

A PLOS study in 2018 revealed that high speed isn’t just for catching up to prey. It makes peregrines more accurate!


(photo by Chad+Chris Saladin)

Oh! No! Snow!

Ducks emerging from the barn at Sanctuary@SHO, Vermont (screenshot from video)

Every morning the ducks at Sanctuary@SHO in Huntington, Vermont burst out of the barn and run down to the orchard to feed. Their enthusiasm is infectious. It must be one of the favorite parts of their day (see video here).

On a recent November morning they ran out of the barn as usual and into the first snowfall.

Here’s their reaction.

Oh! No! Snow!

(videos and screenshots from Sanctuary@SHO in Huntington, Vermont)

A Murmuration Of Shorebirds

A murmuration of sandpipers, Washington state, Nov 2018 (screenshot from YouTube video)

When European starlings are frightened by an aerial predator they fly in tight formation in a giant shimmering blob called a murmuration. If you’ve never seen it, check out these two examples: Murmurations in Lorain by Chad+Chris Saladin and Murmuration a 2011 film on Vimeo.

Starlings aren’t the only ones who fly like this. Shorebirds are masters at staying in formation, flying high and low and sweeping between the waves when threatened from above.

In the video below, a shorebird flock flashes black and white at Ocean Shores, Washington in November 2018. Their backs are dark, their bellies are white, so they change color as they turn in the air.

The flock is doing this for a reason.

Watch a predator dive in at the 0:13 time mark. It looks like a peregrine falcon to me. 🙂

(screenshot from video by Peggy Dolane on YouTube)

p.s. Starlings and sandpipers have other similarities. Back in 2008 I mused about starlings as “Land”pipers.

What Swans Do With Their Heads Underwater

This week Britain’s BBO Wildlife Trust shared a glimpse into the underwater world of swans and ducks.

Mute swans have such long necks that they can feed on the bottom while floating on the surface. Ducks have to dive.

While the swan is feeding tufted ducks come and go, their bodies so buoyant that their feet must flap continuously to keep them submerged.

If this had been filmed in North America they would be our own species: tundra swans and ring-necked ducks.

(video from Jack Perks via BBO Wildlife Trust)