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.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Pecking order

What is the true pecking order? Little was known about encounters between birds of different species until now. A recent citizen science project conducted by Project FeederWatch has collected and analyzed thousands of reports on the drama taking place every day at the feeders.

And the results are in: When it comes to fighting over food, bigger is better but woodpeckers are best. The outcome of aggressive encounters between birds frequently determines which bird species gains access to food. Eliot Miller, a post-doctoral researcher studying feeder hierarchies at the Cornell Lab, says: “We’re finding that you can take that rather complicated, messy set of nearly 2,000 interactions between 85 different species and assemble those species into a fairly good approximation of a pecking order — a linear dominance hierarchy.”

But it is not all black and white. Observations revealed some unexpected relationships like how European Starlings are dominant to Red-headed Woodpeckers, and Red-headed Woodpeckers are dominant to Red-bellied Woodpeckers, but then Red-bellied Woodpeckers are dominant to European Starlings. Other unexpected findings were who turned out to be the least dominant. Doves, buntings, and grosbeaks seemed to be less dominant than expected based on their body size.

Take a look at the video and see pecking order in action:  https://youtu.be/uLieJQ3azOk
See the Red-bellied and Downy Woodpeckers dominate at the feeder over the cardinal, chickadees, finches, titmice, and the lowly nuthatches trying so hard to impress.
 
Sources:
Who is the toughest bird? https://feederwatch.org/blog/who-is-the-toughest-bird/
Fighting over food unites the birds of North America in a continental dominance hierarchy https://www.biorxiv.org/content/early/2017/01/30/104133


Related Articles:
Do Birds Eat Only at Certain Levels? http://goo.gl/vgE94
Why feed birds in the fall http://goo.gl/Jq4Aj
You get more birds if you feed year-round http://goo.gl/IsJKJ
Bird Guilds: How different birds band together to survive http://bird-guild.html
Black-capped Chickadee: Nature’s Backyard Charmer http://goo.gl/ji1vh

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