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Birds bullying birds of the same species.

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Old Saturday 13th February 2010, 12:18   #1
ChrisKten
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Birds bullying birds of the same species.

I know it's common for birds to remind other birds of their place in the pecking order, so we must all have seen a bird pecking another bird of the same species. But I also see birds of the same flock attacking a single bird of that same flock.

Sparrows (which are the only species that I've seen doing this) are quite vicious when they do this, they attack en masse, and without mercy. Often the victim gets trapped and just waits for the attack to stop. I know that often these attacks are on sick or injured birds, but I've also often seen an apparently healthy bird attacked in this way.

As I said, I've only ever seen House Sparrows doing this; has anyone seen this behaviour in other species, and do you have you any thoughts as to why it happens?

Last edited by ChrisKten : Saturday 13th February 2010 at 13:16.
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Old Saturday 13th February 2010, 12:52   #2
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.... and of course to add to that Chris, the House sparrows in my garden can fight to the death for mating rites
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Old Saturday 13th February 2010, 12:58   #3
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Hi Dave, yes they can, Robins also fight to the death, though I've never actually seen it.

I must say that yesterday, when I last saw the Sparrows attacking a single Sparrow, the bird looked quite pathetic. It was trapped amongst the thorns of the Blackberry Bush, one wing stuck on a thorn, with the other Sparrows taking turns at pecking it. Interestingly, it didn't fly off, but just stayed quite close to the others after the attack was over, so I'm guessing that it wasn't a young bird being exiled.
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Old Saturday 13th February 2010, 13:07   #4
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Chris It does seem strange, especially from a species that show strong and close family behaviours....
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Old Saturday 13th February 2010, 13:16   #5
ChrisKten
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Originally Posted by Bananafishbones View Post
Chris It does seem strange, especially from a species that show strong and close family behaviours....
Yeah, I'm not quite sure what's happening, or why. I know that a sick bird is a threat to the whole flock. Not because of spreading disease, but because a sick bird is quickly spotted by a predator. Often the predator can take another in the flock instead of the one that's sick.

Also, a youngster might be banished because of limited food in the flocks territory. So I can imagine a few scenarios where attacking a fellow flock member might benefit the rest of the flock. But I don't understand the benefit in attacking a healthy bird that's allowed to remain in the flock afterwards.
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Old Saturday 13th February 2010, 13:43   #6
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maybe he just pi**ed everyone off
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Old Saturday 13th February 2010, 14:34   #7
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maybe he just pi**ed everyone off
Let's hope so, Dave, I'd hate to think that he was attacked for no reason.
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Old Saturday 13th February 2010, 14:46   #8
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Let's hope so, Dave, I'd hate to think that he was attacked for no reason.
... or he/she could have just taken up bird photography . More likely it was a the very bottom of the pecking order. I know, in primates, those animals with the lowest "prestige" get the sh*t kicked out of them almost constantly.
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Old Saturday 13th February 2010, 16:48   #9
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I once saw a gang of 4-5 American Crows attacking a another crow in a public park The victim—which was underweight with an injured wing--was sitting on the ground. The other crows periodically swooped down & pecked at it viciously. I chased off the flock a few times & made half-hearted attempts to get close to the groundling but it always fluttered off & when I moved away again the assaults resumed. I’m not sure what was going on here. American Crow flocks are territorial & one possibility is that the victim was an interloper which because of poor physical condition or bad luck was unable to get away until it was too late. But who knows? I’ve never seen crows act this way before or since nor have I read anything about such behavior.

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Old Saturday 13th February 2010, 17:20   #10
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Thanks for your replies, Chris, fugl.

There does seem to be a huge amount that we don't know about bird behaviour. I'm fortunate to be able to watch the interactions between birds, and birds and mammals, for hours each day, but I still have more questions than answers.

With the Crows, fugl, like you, it makes me wonder. Which of the Crows' instincts caused the attack? Was it territorial, or did they just react to an easy meal?
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Old Saturday 13th February 2010, 18:11   #11
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Thanks for your replies, Chris, fugl.

There does seem to be a huge amount that we don't know about bird behaviour. I'm fortunate to be able to watch the interactions between birds, and birds and mammals, for hours each day, but I still have more questions than answers.

With the Crows, fugl, like you, it makes me wonder. Which of the Crows' instincts caused the attack? Was it territorial, or did they just react to an easy meal?
Indeed. And, of course, motives needn’t be clear-cut. In the case of the crow I imagine the affray ended in an “easy meal”, however it started.
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Old Saturday 13th February 2010, 19:24   #12
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Hi Chris.
An interesting thread. I have seen this behaviour by House Sparrows on several occaisions. Are the birds you see being singled out for attack females? If so it is as Bananafishbones pointed out in his first posting,a form of mating rite. Masses of male sparrows seem to accumulate around a female in the hope that one will win and go on to mate. Noisy chases around hedgerows are not uncommon still. There's an old country name for this behaviour refered to as a Sparrows Wedding.
Mallards also exhibit similar behaviour with groups of drakes 'ganging' up on a duck. There have been reports of unfortunate ducks being drowned due to these activities.

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Old Saturday 13th February 2010, 19:43   #13
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Hi Si,

I'm pretty sure that the bird the other day was a male, but I'm not sure of the gender on the other occasions I've witnessed it. There was, as always, a great deal of noise, very insistent chirping. I'm also pretty sure that both sexes were involved in the attack, in fact the whole of the 30+ flock.

I'll have to pay more attention next time it happens; perhaps I'll get a better view, so I can check the gender of the victim and the attackers. It nearly always happens in the Blackberry Bush, which ATM, has hardly any leaves, so I might get better views for a few more weeks yet. Oh, and the flock practically lives in my garden, so I get to see this behaviour every day.
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Old Saturday 13th February 2010, 19:47   #14
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. It nearly always happens in the Blackberry ... which ATM...
Hi-tech sparrows you have in your part of the world. Maybe you should just send them an email (or better still, use twitter ... ) and ask them directly what's going on ...

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Old Saturday 13th February 2010, 19:52   #15
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When I had a group of 8-10 Collared Doves coming to the garden over the summer it seemed that there was one bird that always got short shrift from the others, it was smaller and shyer than most of the other birds and was frequently harassed by the different birds in the loose 'group'. Can't be sure if it's the same bird but the resident pair still regularly chase off another dove as soon as it appears, yet seem to accept a different pair in the garden with not much complaint.
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Old Saturday 13th February 2010, 21:02   #16
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lol, yes Dan, and, believe it or not, I've only just got the ATM part of the joke. Well actually the Starlings are more Hi-Tec, I often hear their mobile phones ringing. I think at least one of the Starlings even has a car, because I'm pretty sure I've heard it's alarm. (I do hope people get the Starlings and sounds reference )

Paul, I see that quite often with the Collys (other birds too). I have over 20 Collys in the garden at times, and there's often one that keeps away from the others. When it attempts to feed on the ground there's always another of the Collys hunched up and hopping after it. But I've never seen any species go after another bird en masse as the Sparrows do.
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Old Sunday 14th February 2010, 13:18   #17
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Smile

Same here with Sparrows. We have a dense bush in our front garden. There is a group of 12 Sparrows and they wake me up every morning with all their little squeaks and trills.

When they all squeak and trill together, it is one loud session of noise, then they go quiet all at one time. I think they are quite argumentative little birds with their own species.

Never knew that they could be quite vindictive to one another though during the breeding season.

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