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How do birds recognize each other?

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Old Friday 8th July 2005, 19:22   #1
Erwin Driessens
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How do birds recognize each other?

I'm often puzzled how one bird can recognize another bird from a distance. For example, while I was observing a popular jackdaw nest site in spring, a jackdaw was sitting near to its selected nest hole. It looked like it was protecting it. Sometimes another jackdaw flew in, and was accepted without problems (I suppose this was the partner). But other times a jackdaw flew in that was protested against, even before landing. A jackdaw can apparently recognize another jackdaw at a couple of meters distance, in a fraction of a second. Personally, I could not detect any difference between them.
I figure it is a matter of what the brain pays attention to, and each species being highly tuned to interpret other members of the species. Would it be possible, as a human, to tell apart a few very similar looking/sounding individuals of the same species?
A lot of you have a garden with feeders, where you see the same birds on a regular basis. Can you discriminate between them?
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Old Friday 8th July 2005, 19:29   #2
Terry O'Nolley
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Originally Posted by Erwin Driessens
A lot of you have a garden with feeders, where you see the same birds on a regular basis. Can you discriminate between them?
I can't - unless there is some irregularity. Like one of the Northern Cardinal males that visits has a lot of feathers missing from his crest - very obvious - so I notice him.
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Old Friday 8th July 2005, 22:18   #3

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I've often wondered the same thing to be honest. And how do they know which sex is which in a lot of species either, when they both look identical to us?

I can only tell a few of my regular birds from others, if they have something different about them as Terry says above - like my Jackdaw with a damaged wing, the flightless Magpie with no tail (Hoppy) a Male Blackbird with some white feathers around his face etc. I guess we will never be sure how birds can tell one another apart though.
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