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FRED FIRST: Birds Behaving Badly

“Osprey dares me to pet its little head.” Mangrove kayak launch, Sarasota Bay

I could not resist the alliteration, even though the You-wanna-piece-of-me Osprey is the baddest bird I could find in my limited ornithographic collection. (Yes I made up a word. So sue me.) I did have a couple of bird behavior matters to share, however, so the title is at least somewhat appropriate. Neither of my bird bits are of earthshaking importance, but merely vignettes from a life I don’t quite understand.

The Sudden Occasional Frenzy of Tree Swallows

We have tree swallows again–as many as twenty if all boxes are ultimately occupied by a pair, and now with extra males, we might have more than two dozen. And one bit of their daily life I would love to understand is what I call the ALL FLY!

It’s like ALL SKATE at the rink when you were a kid (if you’re old as dirt and have those memories.) I don’t know if there is any one bird who calls them into action, but they somehow get the signal. And within a few seconds, there are no birds sitting on boxes. Every one of them is overhead, swirling and wheeling in the most exuberant way. I have imagined that it was because at certain points, they just cannot contain themselves, and enjoy being a flock together, on the wing.

At other times, I’ve imagined it to be a three-dimensional role call. All present and accounted for? And a short while later, all birds disappear. Where do they go? I’m thinking to find water. They drink on the wing I believe I understand, so might go skimming the open water in the marsh along the road, just a half a crow-mile (or swallow-mile) from their nesting boxes. I fear our piddly little bird bath we just put out is not likely going to meet their specs.

The Digging Behavior of Crows

And the other small matter in the what-birds-do category is regarding a crow behavior I have observed several times in the past few weeks. Firstly, the crows are now distinctly paired up and show up patrolling under the apple tree and beyond in the pasture, two at a time.

The behavior of note has one of the pair remaining vigilant nearby while the other digs a hole. The same crow will bob deeper and deeper into an excavation it makes, ostensibly for food. I do see something in the beak of the bird-in-the-dirt through binoculars, but it looks like nothing but dirt. No worms. No grubs. What must it be that keeps them at that one point for fifteen minutes or longer?

Next time I see this taking place, I will try to get a video through the long lens that I used for the Osprey shot; and I will visually mark the location or go out while the behavior is underway to find and examine the honey-hole. I’ll let you know what I find.


And while I’m at it, I’ll toss in another bird image from Sarasota, but depicting only law-abiding bird behavior.

Here you can see the moment at which the signal was given, and these four birds dutifully marched off toward their assigned cardinal points, N – S – E and W, in search of whatever it is that an ibis looks for in such places. “Ibises in the Celery Fields”, Sarasota bird sanctuary in 2017

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