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, August 12, 2013

Bird Guilds: How different birds band together to survive

Have you ever noticed after breeding season in the fall and winter that sometimes there are no birds and then you see a woodpecker, then a nuthatch, and then a cloud of different birds descending on the feeders?

It’s not unusual for a group of mixed species to fly together for protection and to forage for food. If you take a walk in the woods you may observe that certain birds gather together in a relatively small space, while the remainder of the woodland is empty.
New York :Macmillan,1895. biodiversitylibrary.org/page/13201239
Titmice, chickadees, nuthatches, Brown Creepers, and woodpeckers which do most of their foraging on trees are sometimes called a tree-foraging guild. Bird guilds are groups of species in a community that exploit the same set of resources in a similar manner, but are not necessarily related closely taxonomically.

Black-capped Chickadee: Nature’s Backyard Charmer
Migrating warblers, kinglets, pewees, gnatcatchers, and vireos may join tree-foraging guilds for a short time during migration stopovers. I love it when the kinglets fly in to mingle with the chickadees every fall. The Black-capped Chickadee seems like such a small bird until it’s sitting next to the teeny tiny crowned kinglet.

But even though these birds work together to survive there are still scuffles and fights to determine hierarchy. Sometimes it’s based on size; the larger Hairy Woodpeckers are more dominant over the smaller Downy Woodpecker which is more dominant than the White-breasted Nuthatch, which can be more dominant then the titmouse which is always more dominant than the chickadee. Dominance may also be determine through age and gender. An older male titmouse may find he’s socially dominant over a young female nuthatch.

Socially dominate tree-foraging birds get first choice at where they want to feed on the tree. This may be why the little least dominant chickadee has developed a special ability to charm humans into giving them treats. At my feeding stations I try to keep all the birds happy with a variety of foods at different levels and in different locations around the yard.

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