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Post Info TOPIC: BIRD BEHAVIOUR


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BIRD BEHAVIOUR


Rob Creek wrote:

They may well be considered as intelligent birds, but it would depend on what type of stimulus was used, or experiment was being carried out to measure the level of intelligence by producing a particular result for that test. .....................You say they won't mistake hail for seed or grain etc, well the pigeons that come onto our bird table and sometimes quite a few of them, they just peck at anything on the table and half the food ends up on the floor as they just seemingly fling it about with no real purpose, they certainly don't act intelligent.
I also think there'd be a lot more science involved than likening birds eating hail to humans eating ice lollies. Hail is simply water, no refined sugar, chemicals etc.




Excellent points. In order to give more details with what I know; First to quote from just one reference scorce "Experiments have proved that pigeons can consistently distinguish between the works of impressionist and cubist painters. And not just by "learning" particular paintings, but by recognising their style, which enables them to identify any work by the same artist. In other words, they can be an abstract visual Concept to make decisions about the world around them - something once held to be beyond most Birds." (Birdwatching magazine May 2005)

In my line of work which delt with 100 plus pigeons day in day out, I've found their intelegence level to be true in that they are even capable to distinguish one item for another. So, if this is true with (as above) works of art- they certainly can easily tell between seed and ice. Your observance on the bird table is typical pigeon behaviour. This is more to do with behavioural instinct survival then intelligence level, especially if they want their favorite pieces first and will try and scoff them before the others get them. Besides, their instinct tells them that the more they manage to scoff quickly, the more chance they have to get enough food to survive the day. When we fed the pigeons (at a local bird rescue centre), seed would fly everywhere (naturally messy eaters) and they would leave some certain bits of wheat and would not eat those bits unless they were really hungry.

I cannot say anything about the documentary you've watched as I've not seen it myself and don't know the circumstances, but, my guess here, perhaps it may possibly be down to either get water or die of thirst?

I will agree with one thing, that there must be more 'science involved' with ice eating, but don't forget, I did say "they must love the sensation of ice water" (in a simular way we love the cold sensation of icecreams) but excluding of course, the flavours etc.

Hope this helps clear things up a bit.

All the best to you.smile
-- Edited by Richard Thew on Thursday 18th of January 2018 06:35:01 PM

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They may well be considered as intelligent birds, but it would depend on what type of stimulus was used, or experiment was being carried out to measure the level of intelligence by producing a particular result for that test. Apparently they can't deal with 2 stimuli in an experiment but are fairly well adept at solving problems.

I did see a documentary a while back showing Caracal's catching Doves (think it was one of the Turtle Dove species) by a waterhole. Apparently the Pigeon / Dove family are renowned for having short memories as within minutes they were dropping back in the same place where they'd just had a near miss cat attack or indeed just seen one of their own plucked from the sky.

You say they won't mistake hail for seed or grain etc, well the pigeons that come onto our bird table and sometimes quite a few of them, they just peck at anything on the table and half the food ends up on the floor as they just seemingly fling it about with no real purpose, they certainly don't act intelligent.
I also think there'd be a lot more science involved than likening birds eating hail to humans eating ice lollies. Hail is simply water, no refined sugar, chemicals etc.

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It's likely the pigeons see it as an alternative to ice lollies. Last month (posted in the County Garden Birds) I reported that my goldfinches went crazy over the snow that gathered on our conifer tree, they must love the sensation of ice water in a simular way we love our icecreams. Pigeons are quite bright birds and it's most very unlikely they will mistaken the hail for seed. (At least it's not as chilli as taking a bath in ice water which I've seen happen a number of times). Hope this helps, Ta!

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Do you think they could be mistaking the hail stones for grain, seed, or breadcrumbs? I suppose in the process they are also getting a form of hydration, just a thought!

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Another pigeon post!

This morning there were about a dozen Feral Pigeons in our garden picking around under the feeders when a brief hail shower started, immediately all the birds started pecking at the hail as it landed, they were actually swallowing it. The hail was that light, white type, like small pellets of compacted snow. I have never noticed this behaviour before but wouldn't be surprised if it has been observed previously.

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sid ashton wrote:
Peter Nolan Woolley wrote:

Observed a Male Goldeneye this morning, swimming very fast around in very tight circles. Would there be any reason it may be behaving like this?

 

Rgds, Pete.


Pete

Phalaropes and Shovelers spin, this forces water away from the bird on the surface, causing an upward flow from as deep as a foot or more. With this flow come the tiny animals on which it feeds. Perhaps this was what the Goldeneye was doing.



-- Edited by Ian McKerchar on Saturday 16th of December 2017 05:49:38 PM


 Thanks Sid smile



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Peter Nolan Woolley wrote:

Observed a Male Goldeneye this morning, swimming very fast around in very tight circles. Would there be any reason it may be behaving like this?

 

Rgds, Pete.


Pete

Phalaropes and Shovelers spin, this forces water away from the bird on the surface, causing an upward flow from as deep as a foot or more. With this flow come the tiny animals on which it feeds. Perhaps this was what the Goldeneye was doing.



-- Edited by Ian McKerchar on Saturday 16th of December 2017 05:49:38 PM

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Observed a Male Goldeneye this morning, swimming very fast around in very tight circles. Would there be any reason it may be behaving like this?

 

Rgds, Pete.



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John,

I noticed this behaviour a few years back, our local Woodpigeons would lie in the middle of the road doing exactly the same,
to start with the kids thought the birds were injured, upon approaching to assist they shot off.....

Cheers


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In a downpour this afternoon a Woodpigeon was bathing but then stopped preening and held each wing skyward to give the underwings a good soaking. It held this pose for some minutes.

Cheers John

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I watched a Jay today, at Sale Water Park ,caching Acorns into the ground, Over a period of 20 mins it put 30+ acorns into  the ground, a great number of these were regurgitated fascinating to watch, and as dog walkers went passed showing no interest, I lost faith in humans.

Keep Birding



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Interesting post Simon. I know pigeons are usually fairly bright and can work out some issues that involves problems in getting at food. However, like you pointed out they don't usually go to the extent of using tools as they tend to lack the brain cells to do this properly. I think what has happened here is that a female picked up a stick suitable for nest making which in itself is a classic behaviour pattern for pigeons. She then obviously may have gone to the feeder to try and get some food at the same time whilst refusing to let her 'perfect' stick go. Thereby this can accidently lead to the bird discovering it can use a stick to dislodge seeds. The others that watch can pickup these habits observing the behaviour and may attempt it themselves. Hope this info helps shed some light on this. ..

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Just now in our Dukinfield garden I saw a Feral Pigeon attempting to use a twig as a tool.
Firstly I noticed this bird perched on the bird table with a thin twig in its beak, it then flew onto the hanging feeder (as 1 or 2 have learned to do). I thought the twig may have gotten lodged in its beak somehow but when it left the feeder a few seconds later the twig was gone. I watched the same bird then pick up a few different twigs from the ground discarding each one in turn but finally picking one that it was happy with. It then flew onto the bird table and again onto the hanging feeder, I could see it was trying unsuccessfully to poke the twig into the feeder port, presumably trying to dislodge seed. Certainly something I haven't seen before or would have expected from a pigeon.

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So last night I stupidly decided to go out birding before the thunderstorm and ended getting stuck in the hide for nearly 2 hours whilst the storm rumbled on over head!

As the rain started all the ducks .. Mallard, Teal, Gadwall all tilted their heads and bills skywards has anyone one else witnessed this before?
I wasn't sure if it was to prevent water from running into their nostrils? A lot of them even got out of the water puffed their chests up but again all had their heads and bills pointing towards the sky!

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David, this is typical motherly instinct behaviour. The instinct of some species can be very powerful, so much so they will look after and protect any other species to the best that they know how. I think it was last year at Martin Mere, a black headed gull took over a moorhen nest. The black headed gull didn't eat the moorhen chicks but "adopted" the moorhens as it's own and from what I gathered, survived well. This all depends on the species and how strong that instinct is, which in my experience from working with wild and domestic birds for about 20 odd years, their broodyness can change literally overnight. Hope this info helps.

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This morning, I carried out my usual routine of tending to the hens, which obviously includes collecting eggs. One hen, currently in lay (ie not broody) was occupying a nest box, which usually indicates that she is about to lay an egg, and usually, if I put a hand towards her, she will vacate the box. Today, however, she didn't budge, and in fact began to peck at my hand. Eventually, amid much squawking, she left the box and joined the other hens in the garden, to reveal two white eggs, and to my amazement, a very young Blackbird chick. The chick attempted to follow the hen, but the coop is about three feet off the ground, accessed by a ramp, so I picked up the chick and placed it in a sheltered corner of the garden, adjacent to the hen hut, at which point I noticed another very young chick huddled in the corner. Both started cheeping, then a female Blackbird appeared, alarm calling along the hedges.

Eventually, the adult Blackbird seemed to shepherd the two errant youngsters into the shelter of the undergrowth, then proceeded to collect and carry food into the area, whereupon the chicks became very vocal. She continued doing this for the rest of the day.

I know that adults will attempt to continue to feed chicks which have left the nest early, for whatever reason, but I am sure that the hen was sitting and protecting the Blackbird chick, which I find only slightly more amazing than the fact that the young Blackbird found its way into the nest box in the first place.

I wondered if anyone else has experienced this sort of behaviour?

-- Edited by David Walsh on Sunday 19th of June 2016 11:19:04 PM

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I've been a birder for over 50 years but yesterday was a first for me. We put seed out for the House Sparrows, Woodpigeons, Collared Doves etc and we have a feral pigeon that comes often in the company of a Woodpigeon. Yesterday the Woodpigeon was mating or attempting to mate with the feral pigeon on the patio. I can find little or no reference to this. Has anybody ever come across a hybrid between the 2 species?

Another unusual behavioural occurrence concerning Woodpigeons  is landing on water. Having been birding on Audenshaw Reservoirs for 30+ years I have on 2 occasions seen them land on the water, stay there for at least 30 secs with outstretched wings and then take off with no apparent trouble. On each occasion the waters were flat calm (a rarity itself on Audenshaw) and the birds were way out in the middle of the water.



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I'm always impressed by Sparrowhawks emulating other species in flight, such as crows, woodpigeons, feral pigeons, collared doves, etc

The other day, a male swooped up in the fashion of a displaying woodpigeon, then down, and hurtled over a fence into a neighbour's garden. Nice trick

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Old Hall Lane, Woodford.

A Buzzard dropped from a low Hawthorn onto what I thought was a Carrion Crow carcass and began pecking. A Magpie immediately joined it to try and snatch anything going. But it turned out that the black lump was only a small piece of farmyard plastic wrapping. Nevertheless neither bird let it go. The Buzzard rose repeatedly about 4 feet from the ground in a series of small loops to try and get away from the Magpie. The Magpie continued to pursue. All the time the Buzzard kept a close grip on the plastic. After about 5 minutes of this behaviour the wrapping detached from the Buzzard's talons and blew away across the field. Neither bird followed it.

Cheers, John

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I was walking close to home yesterday when I heard a blue tit give it's regular alarm call from a nearby clump of trees and bushes, and at that exact second the flock of feral pigeons that haunt the local area took flight in a mad panic, scattering in all directions. I looked all around (as I always do when a bird gives a known alarm call), but there was nothing to be seen in any direction. I just think it is fascinating that a semi-domesticated bird like a pigeon (which is not alarmed by humans approaching) would take flight upon hearing a wild bird utter a warning. Has anyone else witnessed reactions to alarm calls involving unusual species?

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Apparently Phalaropes will spin in either direction, though clockwise is most usual, and it's not that some birds are right-handed and others left-handed. Individuals will change direction from time to time. Also, spinning is relatively unusual as a means of obtaining food. They tend to do it in shallow water though, which I guess would be the case at Burton Mere.

Don't know if you did any counts, Tim, but one of the paper's authors counted a "record" of 206 consecutive spins at an average of 54rpm (pun intended smile)

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Steve Suttill wrote:

There has been quite a bit of research done on this issue, Tim. The February and March 2015 issues of British Birds are the place to look.

-- Edited by Steve Suttill on Friday 5th of June 2015 02:13:58 PM





Thanks Steve. I had to cancel my British Birds subscription last year as I found I just wasn't reading them - too scientific for me and (then) too little time. I read that Grey Phalaropes tend to spin clockwise so wonder if this was a typical or atypical direction of spin for a Red-necked Phalarope. The other behavioural observation was that it felt safe and untroubled feeding amongst Black-tailed Godwits but was severely hassled by Avocets (which species, incidently, seem to be simultaneously terrible parents leaving their fledged young to wander all over the place after defending their nests ferociously!)

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There has been quite a bit of research done on this issue, Tim. The February and March 2015 issues of British Birds are the place to look.

-- Edited by Steve Suttill on Friday 5th of June 2015 02:13:58 PM

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I made a detour for the lovely breeding-plumaged female Red-necked Phalarope at Burton Mere Wetlands from the IMF hide yesterday on the way back from Shropshire. Those of us in the hide watched as it span in fast circles feeding and always turned anti-clockwise. Presumably it was creating a kind of whirlpool of aquatic insects. Anyone know if this is the case and why always without fail turning in one direction only?

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Aha! Greetings Simon, I can gelp you here, I was just browsing through and found your mystery behavior post. Even though pigeons have a bad reputation and for good reason, they are always serious about trying to keep clean. One of their methods is to raise their wing during the rain (or hail) and this is supposed to wash out any bits/parasites from under their wings, simular to what people do when having a shower. One thing all pigeons are full of is feather dust, and if they have a bath in a group, a film of this can be seen on their bath water. This means they need regular showers too. I do hope this helps. Ps. Regarding your garden problem- I used to suffer with this too, so under my bird feeders, i've built a cage to stop the bigger birds from getting at the bits of seed that fall, if you stop them getting at the seed, they will eventually give up in coming (unless If any of your neighbours feed them). The supply of feeders and stuff at Haiths might give you some ideas as it did with me?? Www.haiths.com. I wish you all the best on this!

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simon ghilks wrote:

Saw something yesterday I have not noticed before and looked quite bizarre.

During a hail storm there was a flock of about 10 or 12 Feral Pigeon on our lawn, most were behaving normally but 2 of them had crouched low, tilted to one side, fluffed up breast feathers, raised a wing vertically above them like a sail and spread their tail. As soon as the hail eased off a bit they resumed normal posture but as the hail intensified they would resume the wing raised posture again, one other bird also assumed this same position briefly but all the others carried on as if nothing was wrong. I have never seen this behaviour during a normal rain shower so can only assume that by raising a wing in this way that it somehow deflected the hail from hitting the bird directly.
These birds are really quite a problem in our garden but are possibly the most interesting to watch in terms of behaviour except maybe Starlings and young Magpies. They always seem to be ahead of the game.





They're a nuisance in our garden too Simon, but that is probably the main reason they are successful. Adaptable birds, with a forever inquisitive nature, they suss out what other birds are doing and soon start copying them and inevitably end up reaping rewards in terms of finding food.

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Saw something yesterday I have not noticed before and looked quite bizarre.

During a hail storm there was a flock of about 10 or 12 Feral Pigeon on our lawn, most were behaving normally but 2 of them had crouched low, tilted to one side, fluffed up breast feathers, raised a wing vertically above them like a sail and spread their tail. As soon as the hail eased off a bit they resumed normal posture but as the hail intensified they would resume the wing raised posture again, one other bird also assumed this same position briefly but all the others carried on as if nothing was wrong. I have never seen this behaviour during a normal rain shower so can only assume that by raising a wing in this way that it somehow deflected the hail from hitting the bird directly.
These birds are really quite a problem in our garden but are possibly the most interesting to watch in terms of behaviour except maybe Starlings and young Magpies. They always seem to be ahead of the game.


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On my walk into work I go through Hulme Park. A couple of months ago I saw a dead magpie discarded in a tree next to the path. I checked the following day and it had been removed. Strangely, on Friday, I was doing my usual walk and there was another dead magpie in the same tree!! Could these have been killed by a Bird of Prey?!

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Craig Higson wrote:

Two bits of interesting behaviour today round Viridor Wood. The first (and most interesting to me) happened just as I walked on site. A young Kestrel was perched in a hawthorn where a couple of Magpies were hanging about. What happened next I'm not sure but sudden squealing had me putting the bins up to see the Kestrel and a Magpie grappling with each other - the Kestrel looking far the more comfortable. However what happened next was the interesting bit, Magpies came streaming in from everywhere - at least 10 and possibly up to 15 suddenly in the same bit of hedge and basically defending their stricken colleague. In the end the Kestrel released the one it had grappled with and flew off, the Magpies quickly dissipating as well.





Saw the same thing many years ago on the disused railway lines in Lowton St. Marys - I came across a large group of Magpies surrounding a Kestrel and a Magpie grappling on the floor. The other Magpies kept attacking the Kestrel. As I walked up all the birds fled, apart from the two combatants who remained locked together until I was a few yards away, when they too flew off. In Scotland I've also seen a family party of Hooded crows attack a male Peregrine when the raptor had caught one of their group.

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Two bits of interesting behaviour today round Viridor Wood. The first (and most interesting to me) happened just as I walked on site. A young Kestrel was perched in a hawthorn where a couple of Magpies were hanging about. What happened next I'm not sure but sudden squealing had me putting the bins up to see the Kestrel and a Magpie grappling with each other - the Kestrel looking far the more comfortable. However what happened next was the interesting bit, Magpies came streaming in from everywhere - at least 10 and possibly up to 15 suddenly in the same bit of hedge and basically defending their stricken colleague. In the end the Kestrel released the one it had grappled with and flew off, the Magpies quickly dissipating as well.

The second thing was just quite amusing. At one point I heard a loud tapping, not dissimilar to a Stonechat call. Eventually I spotted the culprit - a Great Tit trying to peck its way into a hazelnut. I watched it for a good few minutes and it was really quite comical. pecking like mad, turn it round, peck like mad, turn it round. I'll give the bird it's due, it has much more patience than I. After what must have been 5 mins it hadn't made any noticeable impact and was still tapping away when I left.

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Many years ago, we used to have one the same at Heaton Mersey CC, lived behind the clock on the old pavillion.
Used to drink bitter, eat crisps and peanuts.....

Me and my mate taught it to fly to us on a whistle and if we were fielding we caused chaos, fielders , umpires and batsmen diving for cover with me and my mate in stitches.

One of the old brigade whom used to sit under the clock, got so cheesed off after about 3 months with it, he demanded the hole got filled in and soon the Magpie disappeared



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Royton Cricket Club has a resident (pest) Magpie who is apparently always flying into the bar and drinking peoples drinks and eating their crisps/nuts. We went to play there a couple of weeks ago, I was amazed at peoples reaction when it flew in. Some of them were genuinely scared of it. With a bit of patience and calmness, it hopped onto my finger and I took it outside. The most confiding (healthy) bird I've ever come across.

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Watched a Magpie eating a dead Wood Pigeon on Jacksons Crescent in Manchester. Not what you want to see at half 7 in the morning!

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keith mills wrote:

Yesterday evening, my Dog and I, were persistently attacked (similar to Artic Tern but not pecked)
by 2 screeching Jackdaws, near the Walkway 100 yards from my house. They were mainly going at ''Champers''

''Champers'' was pretty nonplussed and just looked puzzled at their noisy attention.I should add that in no way was this attack provoked by us, the Jackdaws coming down from nearby trees. My dog is totally non-aggressive towards birds, and often has Blackbirds/Robins inside of 10 feet as he sits on the Lawn without a problem!


-- Edited by keith mills on Saturday 14th of June 2014 10:59:13 AM





I've only just got round to reading this and have to apologise Keith but it was fascinating to read about you and your dog being attacked! My almost unbelievable story is that I was once attacked by a Wren! When I lived in Chadderton, one year I could hear fledgling Wrens in my back garden. I came out to have a closer look but couldn't see them and I must have gone too close to where they were hidden, as what I assumed to be an adult Wren came and actually physically landed briefly on my shirt sleeve! It all happened in whirr and I suppose it is possible that it was a disorientated juvenile but whatever it certainly had the effect the bird desired as it distracted me from its young! I took it to be an extraordinary example of the drive of parenthood and also an incredible feat of bravery...either that or it somehow knew that I was a right old weakling and I was just there for the taking!!

The behaviour of adults and their young never ceases to amaze and fascinate me. I called in briefly at Chester Services on the M56 today and watched an adult Starling being chased around on the ground of the car park by three begging juveniles. The adult would approach the front of a parked car and repeatedly jumped a few feet in the air to pick off a dead squashed insect off the grille of the car and then feed it to one of the juveniles. When done with picking off the juiciest morsels off that particular car it moved on to the next one with young in tow and started all over again! What ingenuity by the adult, as well as being a marvellous sight and one that certainly made me smile.

Best wishes,


Bill.


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I was on Fair Isle from 26th May until 7th June this year and three things interested me. First off were two Bonxies battling it out, another four or five dropped down, seemingly to watch the fight, as we got closer they all seemed to disperse, then one bird, I assume the original victim, struggled across the road in front of us before heading to the edges of a nearby Geo, obviously injured from the fight. A couple of days later, I saw a Bonxie bring another down and they started fighting, this time it attracted the attention of a Great Black-backed Gull, when this landed close to the fight, the original aggressor flew off leaving the victim, the GBBG just stood close by until the victim flew off. Also, while we were there, I saw a Bonxie swallowing what appeared to be a small rabbit, a GBBG landed close by and grabbed the part that hadn't been swallowed and started pulling the rest of the rabbit from the Bonxie, before swallowing it itself!

I believe Bonxie means 'bully' in Shetland dialect, so that would explain the first incident, but clearly they are something of cowards when it comes to confronting a GBBG! My wife and I have visited Fair Isle on a number of occasions since 1987 and this is the first time we have seen anything like this sort of behaviour, the Bonxie population is increasing on the isle, much to the detriment of Arctic Skua, maybe this is the reason for the aggression.

regards


Dave

PS. Fair Isle really is a must visit place for birders, we had what I thought was a quiet fortnight but still saw Kumlien's Gull, Caspian Stonechat, multiple Red-backed Shrikes, Quail, Marsh Warbler, Icterine Warbler (down to ten feet), Red-breasted Flycatcher and Blyth's Reed Warbler, the birds we missed included Temminck's Stint, Collared Flycatcher, Honey Buzzard and Common Rosefinch amongst others. The new observatory is stunning and the residents very friendly and helpful.



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Hi Tony.. Yes I guess your right that's the only answer...I did have a glance round for a fledgling, but grass at least 6 inches high.
We beat a hasty retreat with one Jackdaw following us!
Trouble was it was right by the main Walkway, which I was on, and my dog a few feet off.
No trouble there today.
Well I do enjoy the bubbly occasionally, but usually a glass of Pinot Grigio is good enough.smile
-- Edited by keith mills on Saturday 14th of June 2014 05:02:57 PM

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keith mills wrote:

Yesterday evening, my Dog and I, were persistently attacked (similar to Artic Tern but not pecked)
by 2 screeching Jackdaws, near the Walkway 100 yards from my house. They were mainly going at ''Champers''

''Champers'' was pretty nonplussed and just looked puzzled at their noisy attention.I should add that in no way was this attack provoked by us, the Jackdaws coming down from nearby trees. My dog is totally non-aggressive towards birds, and often has Blackbirds/Robins inside of 10 feet as he sits on the Lawn without a problem!


-- Edited by keith mills on Saturday 14th of June 2014 10:59:13 AM




As far as birds are concerned you, and especially your dog, are seen as potential predators. I would guess there was a recently fledged
Jackdaw on the ground close by probably trying to hide (which would explain why you didn't notice it), and the other 2 were the parents.
"Champers"? Is the dog named after your regular tipple Keith? smile

-- Edited by Tony Darby on Saturday 14th of June 2014 04:33:29 PM

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Yesterday evening, my Dog and I, were persistently attacked (similar to Artic Tern but not pecked)
by 2 screeching Jackdaws, near the Walkway 100 yards from my house. They were mainly going at ''Champers''

''Champers'' was pretty nonplussed and just looked puzzled at their noisy attention.I should add that in no way was this attack provoked by us, the Jackdaws coming down from nearby trees. My dog is totally non-aggressive towards birds, and often has Blackbirds/Robins inside of 10 feet as he sits on the Lawn without a problem!


-- Edited by keith mills on Saturday 14th of June 2014 10:59:13 AM

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male whitethroat displaying on the old railway line at amberswood, before the rain moved in.

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I saw the same at Berry Head and Dawlish Warren down in Devon, with Shags in the mix too. Maybe the GBBs are trying to capitalise on the work of the Cormorants? I saw LBB and Herring Gull sniffing round feeding Great Northern Divers on the same trip. These associating birds are the gulls that can be bothered to fly and swim, rather than just go through the bins on the beach! Its actually quite amazing how comfortable gulls are now. My mum is still smarting from a Herring Gull that walked up to her while she was sat on a bench on the sea front in Paignton, and pecked the chips she was eating from her lap.

What was also a bit surprising was seeing Turnstone being similarly confiding. I saw one feeding with a few Purple Sandpiper in Brixham, picking through seaweed like it's supposed to. Later on the Purple Sands were roosting and the Turnstone had reverted to sniffing round some anglers on the breakwater, getting fed maggots from the hand! I saw another 6 or 7 in Paignton eating chips off the floor (Not my mum's chips...). They behave like Pigeons! When I wandered over they were fussing around my feet like a springer spaniel.

Slight digression there Tim, sorry. I guess it's nice that the phenomenon you describe is something that evidently occurs at different ends of the country. I'm not an expert on gulls but I bet it is something to do with opportunism on the part of the GBBs. If they chillax with the Cormorants, when they head off to feed maybe the gulls can follow them and join in/take advantage?

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Changing the subject from Herons does anyone know why Great Black-backed Gulls lounge around with Cormorants? I've seen this a lot on rocks on the North Wales Coast and recently on the shoreline at Marshside. Neither species seems bothered by the other and they are often only a few feet away. Why is this?

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Herons do indeed produce pellets Rick, but so do quite a few other birds. Most if not all of the Corvids (Crow family), Kingfishers, some of the Gulls, Cormorants, Shrikes, Terns, Grebes, to name a few, some of the smaller birds do too.

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I take it Herons emit pellets like other birds of prey? How on earth does it go about dealing with huge bills?

Any huge bills I get, I go to the bank of Mum and Dad!!!no

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It's a good job they have no gag reflex. I was gagging a bit watching my one, imagine swallowing a crocodile, no matter how old!

I've seen one catch and swallow a pretty massive eel at Brockholes near Preston, but I imagine they slip down a lot easier than a duck or a dogfish for that matter. Dogfish skin is like sandpaper.

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This conversation cropped up last year when a Grey Heron was reported eating a Snipe, and with reference to Tanmay's sighting with the Water Rail, what surprised me was how it dealt with the long bill on both birds.
But Herons eating Rabbits, Rats, Ducks, and fish as large as a Dogfish/small Shark (ref a YouTube video somewhere) then this comes as no surprise at all.
Most of the Herons and their allies Egrets, Storks, etc all eat live prey for the most part, and the size of the prey is 'usually' dependant on the size of the bird and probably also what the bird feels it can handle. If it sees it as fair game then why wouldn't it go for it?
Great Egrets take Mammals, small Birds, reptiles amph, etc.
Marabou Storks in Africa take what they can get including fairly large Flamingo chicks, unwary ground Mammals, and even Crocodile youngsters of a size they can cope with.
Jabiru's in the Americas take the same kind of prey over there. So basically if prey is deemed to be a possible meal due to whatever the factors are at that moment, in my view chances are they will go for it.
Cheers
Rob

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I remember back in the late Eighties watching a Grey Heron at Martin Mere suddenly grabbing an adult Mallard and struggling with it, but managed to pollish it of after some 20 minutes

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Back in the early '00's I was working in Knutsford and used to wander down to Tatton Mere. A pair of Heron nested at the Knutsford end of the mere and were raising two chicks. One of the chicks succumbed and, one lunch time, I watched the rather macabre sight of one parent bird consuming the dead body ! It was not small and took quite some effort (which made it all the more grisly !!!)

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If you go on you-tube you will see Herons eating all kinds of Animals,Rabbits,Rats,etc

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Greetings from Brownley Green .



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I've seen a heron eating a water rail at Parkgate. It was a struggle for the heron to get it down but it succeeded in the end.
An almost fully grown mallard duckling is pretty impressive though!

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Rick Hall wrote:

I filmed a Heron the other day eating a Mallard duckling that must have been right on the threshold of what it could swallow. It was almost fully grown.





The threshold of what a Grey Heron can swallow is amazing. One of my most memorable birding encounters was watching a Heron at Leighton Moss first spear then drag to a bank a two foot long Pike. It then positioned its bill over the Pike's jaws to clamp them shut and gradually jerked the whole fish down its gullet before waddling slowly like a fat City businessman off into the vegetation to digest. It only needed a 'waffer-thin mint' to complete the job!

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