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Old Wednesday 15th March 2017, 00:11   #1
Talking Parrot
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Bird flock acting weird

Hi there.

If you read my Hello thread, you know I don't know a lot about birds (if you didn't, it will become pretty obvious as you read this), so please excuse any mistakes I may write.

So, in my yard there is a lemon tree, which attracts a significant number of birds. I don't know which kind of birds are they, but in a book about Mexico City I found several pictures of local birds, so it may be (based on pictures on the book and my non-expert observations) one of these:

1. Junco phaenotus
2. Toxostoma curvirostre
3. Calothorax lucifer
4. Pheuticus melanocephalus

I hope I wrote that correctly.

I'm under the impression it is most likely to be either 2 or 3 (or maybe it's none of them...), but I think you get the idea. It is a small bird from central Mexico.

So, this birds. The other day I was with a good friend of mine having some drinks, chatting, etc, when suddenly we see this flock of birds (they were on the tree), probably all the birds on the tree at that time, maybe 20-40 of them, started flying very erratically, like some kind of "bird hurricane", like they were... emm, fighting or something (but I'm not sure that was actually the case), but they were flying like, in a chaos, I mean, I've seen a lot of birds flying in a group, but they are generally "in order", this "V" formations and such, but this birds just started doing what I just described... and they continued, they kept flying like in this sort of "hurricane formation" and flying away. I mean, while they were flying in a chaos, they were at the same time "going away", until they eventually got lost in the distance.

Obviously, my friend (who knows as much as I do about birds) and I were very, very confused. I kept staring at the sky for over 10 minutes after they disappeared, and they didn't come back (at least not for the next few hours).

I do not recall seeing "another bird" (like a predator) or something that may have scared them, but again, I am no expert.

I apologize if this sounds stupid or confusing, I really have a hard time understanding what I saw, let alone explaining it properly.

I appreciate any insights you may have.

Nice day.
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Old Friday 17th March 2017, 15:15   #2
nartreb
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A little bit like this?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4_P7eEYJfkI

(Fish also do something similar, search for "bait ball")

The behavior is obviously useful in reducing each bird's chances of being hit by a predator, but some species do it all the time (or at least seasonally, when they're in big enough flocks), regardless of whether there's actually a predator around.

The birds you saw that day may not have been one of the species you listed. They may have been common starlings (as seen in the video), house sparrows, or something else. I'm not familiar with any of the birds you named but based on their close relatives I have seen, I have a little trouble picturing 40 of them perched in the same lemon tree, even during spring migration, with the possible exception of the junco.

I think you saw a passing flock of something (maybe starlings) on migration, that you haven't seen in your tree before. There probably wasn't any predator around, they just decided to move on, and that's how they move.
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Old Sunday 19th March 2017, 17:15   #3
Talking Parrot
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Hi, thanks for your answer.

Well, that video is certainly impressive, but it's not exactly that. Imagine that but with the birds flying in a complete disorder. In the video it looks like the group of birds move, like, with some sort of "intent", as you say, evading an attack in this case. What I saw was like, a "hurricane". Or like a swarm of mosquitoes. The thing is, it looked pretty chaotic, that was what caught my attention the most.

On top of it, it's the first time I see that in my 20 years living here, which also suggests it was some migrating birds from elsewhere, as you said.

And now that you mention it, they do look a lot like house sparrows.

I don't have a camera, but some of my friends do. I think it's time to start pestering some people and bring you pictures.

Stay tuned.

Good day.
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Old Tuesday 21st March 2017, 14:31   #4
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House sparrow is a good guess - their flocks tend to be especially chaotic.
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Old Wednesday 22nd March 2017, 15:37   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Talking Parrot View Post
I do not recall seeing "another bird" (like a predator) or something that may have scared them, but again, I am no expert.
It's possible that they were spooked by something they initially thought to be a predator, or by a predator that's difficult to make out, like for example a smallish hawk (typically an Accipiter sp.) flying from from one spot of cover to another. They also seem to be more sensitive to some silhouettes and movement patterns than others, that is to say I think they can discriminate between different species of predators. For example, recently, I saw a huge swarm of gulls (including some very large ones) suddenly take off all at once. Turns out there was a Peregrine flying over, which wasn't actually all that conspicuous to me. Pretty sure they wouldn't have reacted to a Common Buzzard this way.
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