About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Birds freeze or fly at the approach of a predator

I had a customer come in and tell me that the most common prey the hawks ate outside her office window were woodpeckers. While at my house the bird most often attacked is the Mourning Dove. Two birds, that go instinctively into defensive mode when a predator is around, but in completely opposite ways.

Since woodpeckers aren’t fast flyers, a downy’s best defense is to freeze in place to escape a predator’s notice if he can't make it safely to an evergreen shrub.

Scattering at the first hint of danger is another way for birds to survive. Doves usually feed in flocks and fly in every direction in a flurry of feathers to confuse predators. They can accelerate to speeds greater than 60 mph and make abrupt changes in direction and speed to make a quick getaway.

Depending on the situation, some birds may employ both strategies. A chickadee will flee if dense cover is nearby, but freeze if he’s been caught unaware by a hawk's appearance.

A third defensive tactic is “mobbing”. This is when smaller birds try and to drive the bigger birds out of their territory. Blue Jays and American Crows mob birds of prey all year long; while other birds like mockingbirds, red-winged blackbirds, and common grackles primarily mob these big birds during the breeding season.

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