Here are some bird behavior articles that you may find of interest.
Crane feeding Heron
Story below the photo. link is here with the video!
A crane raised at a municipal zoo in Himeji City, Hyogo, Japan feeds wild gray herons that come almost every day; feeding them the mackerel from the cage.
According to the zoo, the Japanese cranes are female “sky” and male “sho”, both 30 years old. The two birds have been feeding through the wire mesh since the summer of 1993. The heron disappeared around 2011 , but the heron, (which seems to be different from before), appeared in late October, and exchanges began again.
At about 11:00 am, a young gray heron appears in front of the cage at a feeding time of around 11 am, and several horse mackerels have been shared. A zoo representative said, “I want you to watch the rare scenes warmly.”
Professor Hiroyuki Masatomi, a professor of the Japanese crane, who is familiar with the ecology of the Japanese cranes, said, “I’ve never heard of this before and it is rare. However, a gray heron (similar in size to a child) may have just appeared where an event that interrupted parenting occurred, for example. “
Do birds use barometric pressure to predict storms?
Scientific article on this question:
9 Common Bird Behaviors
(link to original article here).
Here are 9 of the most common bird behaviors you should definitely learn to recognize…
1. Feeding Behavior
By far, one of the most common types of bird behavior is feeding behavior.
This happens every day during all times of year, and therefore it’s one of the best ways to get started.
There’s actually a lot more subtlety to how birds gather food than you might initially realize.
In the beginning you might just say “Oh that bird is feeding”, but the reality is different birds have their own unique ways of finding food and consuming it.
The trick is to try and see how many different types of feeding behavior you can find. Let’s look at a few of the most common feeding behaviors.
Some of the most common birds you see outside are ground feeders like sparrows & thrushes because they’re not hidden high up in the trees.
Yet even amongst ground feeders you’ll notice there’s a wide diversity that can be observed.
Some birds like the American robin like to feed on open lawns. They stop, look, listen, walk a few paces and suddenly pounce on an unsuspecting worm.
Other birds like sparrows seem to putter around in circles slowly picking along the forest edge for insects.
Pay close attention when you see birds feeding on the ground and notice that each species has it’s own unique pattern of feeding.
These subtle differences are a fascinating way to increase your understanding of birds.
One of the biggest contrasts to ground feeding is canopy feeding.
This tends to be a lot more challenging to identify simply because the birds are somewhat hidden behind tree leaves, and further away.
Sometimes the easiest way to clue into canopy feeding is by the sound birds make as they move through.
I notice this one especially during late spring when the maple keys ripen and get ready to fall. My neighbourhood becomes filled with large flocks of cedar waxwings coming in to feed on the abundant seeds.
Other treetop birds like warblers eat a lot of insects and spiders, so their feeding activity is much more spread out and subtle. You really have to pay close attention if you want to spot a warbler feeding in the canopy.
The classic bark feeders in my area include nuthatches and brown creepers.
These birds are adapted with special feet that are capable of holding onto the trunks of trees, sometimes walking up and down the trunk as if it were flat ground.
You could also put woodpeckers in this category, although they frequently are after things underneath the bark.
Bark feeders are easier to observe than the canopy dwellers so I highly recommend watching a few different species and get to know the behavior patterns of bark feeding in your area.
Another completely different type of feeding behavior is aerial feeding.
This includes birds like swallows and swifts who catch insects on the fly.
They often have very specific requirements for nesting & roosting sites next to an open field with plenty of insect activity.
This means some places might have almost no aerial feeders, while other places the sky is filled with them.
It’s amazing to watch their acrobatics and marvel at how skilled they are to catch so many tiny insects at high speed.
Hawking is another type of feeding behavior frequently used by flycatchers.
It’s sort of like a mixture between aerial feeding & perch hunting.
The bird will perch at a high point in a tree waiting for insects to fly by. Then the bird will suddenly leap out from it’s perch, catch the insect and quickly fly back to the tree.
If you watch carefully you’ll get to see this pattern repeating over and over again. Once you see it this behavior is super obvious.
Predatory Feeding (Hunting)
Of course, no list of bird feeding behaviors would be complete without mentioning predatory birds hunting for mammals or smaller birds.
This is definitely one of the most exciting things you’ll get to witness as you practice watching & getting to know the birds.
Many people have mixed feelings about things like hawks, especially the ones who specialize in hunting other birds.
But the fact remains that aerial predators keep nature in balance. What they do is necessary for the successful functioning of the food chain.
Even within hunting behaviors, different types of predators have many different strategies for catching prey.
Some will perch on a tree and wait for the right moment to pounce.
Others will soar high overhead and watch for opportunities, covering much larger distances.
Some will fly way high up in the sky and then nosedive down to catch their prey at incredible speeds.
Some eat mostly fish, while others focus more on small mammals or even snakes & frogs.
Others still specialize in catching birds on the fly in deep forest cover.
Make a list of some local aerial predators, then see if you can watch them doing what they’re so well known for!
2. Territorial Behavior
Another extremely common type of bird behavior is territorial behavior.
Most people who take an interest in birds are already familiar with this behavior, although you might not realize it yet.
If you’ve ever heard a bird sing, then you’ve already observed songbird territorial behavior in action.
Bird songs can also be used as part of courtship as we’ll see in the next example.
So just because you hear song, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bird being territorial, but it is a good clue to help you identify where birds are hanging out.
An even more certain expression of territorial behavior is actual aggression activity when songbirds will physical yell, scream, chase, and on rare occasion physically fight with each other to maintain their boundaries.
Sometimes people think these moments of aggression are alarm calls, but if you pay attention to who is involved, you’ll see it’s two members of the same bird species.
Territorial behavior is most common during spring as birds are getting ready to mate.
In larger birds, territorial behavior can also be expressed by the eagle or a large soaring hawk circling high over their territory.
Early in the season before the boundaries are really established, you might get to see enemy eagles lock talons & tumble towards the earth in a pretty amazing display.
Keep watching after the battle is over and you’ll get to see who is the winner by who stays and who turns back.
On the other hand, a strange thing to realize is this seemingly aggressive activity can also be a courtship behavior if it’s happening between a male & female.
Another great bird to help you spot territorial behavior is crows. Crows can be extremely territorial against other families and potential threats to their nesting site.
3. Courtship Behavior
The next thing to start looking for is courtship behavior…
This behavior can definitely be quite a bit more subtle than feeding & territorial activity, so you should get comfortable with those behaviors first.
Sometimes the main clue of courting activity is simply seeing pairs of birds spending all their time together.
This is something that can be readily observed with Robins in north america as an example.
During late winter you’ll notice the males are all feeding together in large groups, with no females in sight. That’s a good clue territorial behavior has not started yet.
Then as spring emerges, you’ll notice these male groups begin to disperse across the landscape, while singing & defending territory.
At this point it becomes less and less likely to see large groups of male robins feeding together in the daytime.
Then one day you’ll notice that each male is accompanied by a female with slightly lighter or softer plumage.
If you continue watching the pair, you might get to see the male feeding the female as their bond solidifies.
4. Nest Building
Quite soon after pairing up, birds start building their nests.
Notice how each behavior builds on the next, so each new behavior you identify makes it easier to observe more subtle activity.
Now you can start watching for signs of birds gathering grasses, mud or small sticks, and carrying them into hidden spots on the landscape.
This happens during spring, though some birds are earlier than others, even starting in late winter sometimes. And some birds can still be seen nesting in early summer.
For obvious reasons, most birds are quite secretive about where the place their nests, and this means you really have to pay close attention to find where they’re hiding.
There are exceptions to this rule. Sometimes birds will build nests in some of the most obvious spots, it’s almost a miracle they can be successful at all.
Nesting is also an interesting area of bird behavior because not all birds build nests the same way.
There are different types of nests made by different types of birds.
Sometimes it’s the female who makes the nest. Sometimes both the male and female help out. It all depends a lot on what species you’re watching.
Cup nests are one of the most standard nest types that most people envision when they think about bird nests.
Some birds like the America Robin build cup nests about 10-15 up in a tree. Sparrows tend to build cup nests in low shrubs within 3-5 feet of the ground.
And some birds like juncos will even build cup nests right on the ground, which requires a tremendous amount of stealth.
The other type of nest that most people are already familiar with is a cavity nest. These are often made by woodpeckers, or they form on old trees after large branches fall off.
However cavity nests are favoured by many different types of birds, including chickadees & blue birds, sometimes coming back to the same spots year after year to raise their families.
Look for large dead standing trees, or places where large branches have fallen to form a nook.
Other Nest Types
As you spend more time watching birds during the nesting season you’ll get to know a variety of other shapes & sizes of nest.
Sometimes they hang down like a string of moss with a single entrance hole that completely closes off the eggs from predators.
Other times birds like swallows will build little mud homes on the side of buildings or cliffs.
You’ll notice a lot of aerial predators have very basic nests that just look like a bunch of sticks, or even no nest at all, preferring to lay eggs right on the ground with absolutely no protection.
Most importantly – always remember to be cautious and respectful of birds during the nesting season.
Try to give birds their space because this is a stressful time of year, and if you’re not careful you might give away nest locations to egg robbers like jays & crows.
5. Mating Behavior
Mating behavior typically begins quite soon after the nest is built.
As far as birds go, mating is sometimes one of the tougher behaviors to actually see because it typically doesn’t last very long.
It only happens for a few days as the eggs are being fertilized. If you miss it, then you’ll have to wait a whole year to have another shot.
However birds do commonly mate in plain sight that would make most humans blush.
So if you’re in the right place at the right time, you might see a brief flurry of wing flapping that lets you know love is in the air.
6. Mobbing & Predator Evasion
Predator evasion happens at all times of year, but very often the easiest time to start tuning in with alarms is during spring.
I covered a lot on bird alarm behaviors in my other articles about bird language.
This is one behavior that really works best if you can both see and hear it.
Some of the most intense alarms happen during the spring nesting season because nest robbers are often not a danger to the parents, but an extreme threat to the eggs.
Parent birds will intensely chase, scream & mob, sometimes directed towards animals that you wouldn’t normally think of as a threat to songbirds like rats, jays, squirrels, raccoons, snakes, etc.
Next time you hear birds calling like the forest is on fire, it could be an alarm!
7. Fledgling Behavior
Starting life is a tough thing for small birds, but amazingly every year they eventually succeed.
As you get later into spring and early summer, you’ll start to notice the courted pairs of birds are suddenly accompanied by small groups of their immature offspring.
If you catch this very early after the juveniles have left the nest, they will sometimes appear almost groggy and clumsy as they test out their wings.
Fledglings at this stage have not yet learned to be fearful of humans, and it’s common for them to land on people at this time of year.
This is a dangerous time for young birds because they don’t yet know how bird language works, and sometimes won’t respond to alarm calls for nearby predators.
You’ll often see them following their parents around the forest, shaking their wings and making constant begging calls for food.
Pretty soon they’ll learn to feed themselves like adults and you almost won’t know the difference other than some spotted plumage.
8. Flocking Behaviors
As spring turns into summer, nesting will gradually slow down as you see more and more fledglings becoming independent.
At this point, you’ll start to notice the mating pairs who were furiously defending their territory as a couple, are gradually replaced by larger flocks of birds.
The juveniles are now self-sufficient, but remain with the group for safety.
This is the time of year when I often see large influxes of starlings or grackles coming in to feed on the lawn.
Bird flocks can become quite large at this time of year, and for some species, territorial behavior is no longer maintained.
9. Migration & Seasonal Movement
Finally as summer comes to a close, summer flocks of birds begin making their autumn journey to winter territories.
This is when you might notice new and interesting species coming through your favourite bird watching areas.
These are not nesting residents, but rather migratory birds. Some bird species will travel incredible distances across the globe.
Others only go a short distance, even just moving to a different section of the same bio-region.
It happens in fall, and again in spring, when the whole thing repeats over again.
The more times you watch this yearly cycle of bird behaviors, the easier to is to understand why they do what they do.
It’s an exciting process of learning, and all starts with getting outside to watch, listen and explore.
9 More Tips For Understanding Bird Behavior
Let’s finish this lesson with a few rapid-fire tips to help you really maximize your results with exploring bird behavior.
- Use Binoculars – These can really help you see subtle movements and postures more clearly.
- Use Your Eyes AND Ears – Sometimes the best clues for understanding bird behavior are actually sound rather than sight. If you can both see AND hear a bird, you’ll be much more likely to understand what it’s doing.
- Practice at different times of day – Birds do different behaviors at different times of day. Some birds only mate during the morning. Some birds actually migrate during the cover of nighttime!
- Practice during different seasons – As you probably noticed from the list, many bird behaviors are isolated to specific seasons or times of year. You’ll get the greatest understanding when you can observe through all four seasons.
- Keep A Bird Journal & Write What You See – Sometimes writing out what you see & hear helps you identify and remember key parts of the behavior. Putting your observations into words uses more of your brain.
- Pay Attention To The Location Of Behaviors – Everything in nature fits into a context. Sometimes context can completely change the meaning of the behavior. Are you in a big forest? Are you in a field? On the edge of the ocean? Next to a lake or pond?
- Ask Yourself WHY – Don’t just be satisfied with knowing what a behavior is. Ask yourself why is that bird acting this way? Why is it doing this here? Why now? Why not somewhere else? The question WHY points our attention towards an ecology of connections that increases the quality & quantity of knowledge we have about birds. You’ll find that when you investigate why birds do what they do, it dramatically increases your intuition about what is happening on the landscape. It helps you to acquire predictive skills so you can foresee potential outcomes before they even occur.
- Get Yourself A Good Field Guide – The more you know about birds in general, the better off you’ll be. Identification is a helpful foundation if you have no prior experience. I also highly recommend Stokes Guide To Bird Behavior Vol 1, 2, 3.
- Practice Sensory Awareness – Sometimes when people struggle with birds it’s because they need practice with watching & listening. Modern technology has deadened the senses of most humans, however bird behavior requires a certain degree of mindfulness & conscious awareness to effectively understand.
Most important whenever you study bird behavior, make sure you keep it fun!
Ask yourself – What am I truly excited and curious to learn about? Then go for a wander and practice watching birds… And let me know what behaviors you discover out there!