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Northern Mockingbird wing flashing (1 Viewer)

delia todd

If I said the wrong thing it was a Senior Moment
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Scotland
This picture was uploaded to the Gallery today and I'd like to add it to the Opus article, especially if we can get a clearer idea of what's going on.

Has anyone any other suggestions as to what this 'two-steps and flash the wing' behaviour is all about?

D
 

KC Foggin

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It is their way of stirring the air on the ground to bring out any insects for them to eat.
 

fugl

Well-known member
Evidently a controversial subject. Here's what BNA-online has to say:

". . .When walking or running on the ground, frequently raises wings (“wing flashes”) half to fully open in a stereotyped manner, in several progressively higher jerky movements, exposing conspicuous white wing patch (Gander 1931a, Sutton 1946, Selander and Hunter 1960, Hailman 1960a, Sprunt 1964; Fig. 3). Function of this behavior is unknown; speculations include startling insects or potential predators (especially nest predators) and as a component of territorial display (Selander and Hunter 1960, Mueller and Mueller 1971).

Adults, especially females, perform wing flashes upon returning to the nest after a longer than normal absence (KCD). Typically, the adult lands on the outer portions of the tree, faces the nest and wing-flashes before moving on to the nest to incubate eggs, or brood or feed nestlings. Juveniles, including newly fledged young, flash wings even before they can forage for themselves (Sutton 1967). Similar wing movements observed in Chalk-browed (Mimus saturninus; Halle 1948) and Tropical (M. gilvus; Haverschmidt 1953) mockingbirds, both of which lack white wing patches. Halle (1948) therefore discounted the startling function while Whitaker (1957) thought that the jerky movement of a dark wing against a light gray body would suffice to startle insects.

Hayslette (2003) empirically examined wing-flashing behavior in 82 recorded foraging bouts in Alabama. There was a negative relationship between attack rate and rate of wing-flashing. Rate of wing-flashing was greater at midday than in morning and evening. Dhondt and Kemink (2008) assert that wing-flashing is an anti-predator behavior most pronounced during the nestling and fledgling stages of the breeding cycle. ...."

So, take your pick. . ..
 

delia todd

If I said the wrong thing it was a Senior Moment
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Thanks KC and Fugl.

Interesting ain't it!

D
 

etudiant

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Very reminiscent of the tail spreading behaviour of the American Redstart. Afaik, this was claimed to be a tactic to startle insects into motion, so that the bird could then target and eat them. That is certainly what the Mockingbird video appears to show.
 

fugl

Well-known member
Very reminiscent of the tail spreading behaviour of the American Redstart. Afaik, this was claimed to be a tactic to startle insects into motion, so that the bird could then target and eat them. That is certainly what the Mockingbird video appears to show.

It's interesting footage alright but I don't know if it does much to prove the "insect startling" theory. On one or two occasions, the mocker appears to go after something--prey presumably--off to one side, but normally it does nothing, just flashes its wings, runs forward,, flashes them again, runs forward & so on & so on. Not that this disproves the theory, of course--maybe the mocker was just having a bad day--but it certainly doesn't lend it much support, particularly since (according to the caption) there were 2 wing-flashing mockers in the field, opening up the possibility of a social/sexual/territorial function of some kind.

Another case, I would think, of "more study needed. . . ".
 

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