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Assorted Wildlife, Birds, Blackbirds, Blue Tits, Books, Articles, TV and/or Rants, Chaffinches, Crows, Dunnocks, Great Tits, Magpies, Robins, Starlings, Woodpeckers, Wrens

‘That Same Old Tail Twirling’ or Is That a Menage a Trois in My Garden? (2)

Dunnock

Dunnock (Photo credit: Dave-F)

Ah, the Dunnock, Responsible for the Awakening to Promiscuity in the Scientific Community
(She says that like it’s a bad thing:  no really I am aware of the erroneous implication here and I am sticking by it!)

It appears we may have some threesomes in our little biosphere. In a previous post, I talked about the kinky sex life of the female dunnock.  Well, all of a sudden there were three of them in the garden last week.  Of course, one of them was getting roughed up a bit.  But given the proclivity of these birds, who knows?

Just to show that I can enjoy my porn as much as the next gal/guy (but really all in the interest of research into dunnock threesomes), here’s some dunnock porn: http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/life/Dunnock#p007tx02   Coincidentally, during my amphibian outing (see previous post), I met up with a lady from the local wildlife trust who handed me a leaflet with a picture of a dunnock, front and center.  So, we got to discussing the proclivities of the little pink-legged creature, and she happened to mention she saw the exact same scene as shown in the link from her kitchen window!    Now, I could just barely watch it on the computer:  imagine going about your business in your kitchen, making a sandwich maybe, only to look out the window in time to see that little scene?!  Would put me right off my lunch.

In fact, saw a bit of tail-twirling myself this morning, and immediately looked away.  I’m no voyeur!

Our cheap little bird book (in all ways) still focuses on the male dunnock’s sex life (this book seems to have a thing about male birds, females invariably described as dull in comparison), and emphasises that they are shy, retiring birds, sticking to the undergrowth.  Last year, I would have agreed with that assessment, but this spring, they are living up to those tiger stripes on their backs:  bold and out there, trying their luck with feeders (ok, it takes them a few tries to haul themselves up), storming the bird tables, etc.  I blame our resident robin who seems to have taken one of the dunnocks under its wing (eh hum).  The little dunnock is its sidekick, almost to the point of being its shadow.  Fascinating.

Of course, it could be all that promiscuous sex.  I have been doing a bit more research on the dunnocks (see  http://www.scienceinschool.org/2011/issue18/birkhead).  Interesting how the assumption that males were the premier partner-hoppers across all birds, never mind just for the dunnocks, persisted until the 1960s–the 1960s!.  Where was the objectivity of science until then?  I digress, but only a little for my primary observation here is that in most of my reading about this ‘awakening’, all of a sudden words like promiscuity and promiscuous crops up, suspiciously in tandem with the observations that the females are now observed as having many partners.  So, in males it is the way of things, but when females join in, it’s promiscuity?  I think about the quote from my pal, Colin Tudge, about males scienitst’ reactions to the frisky female wattled jacanas in a previous post.  They’ve got to lose those gender goggles!

OK, I got that out of my system.  It is safe to read on.

It’s Not All Bum Poking
There are actually quite a few couples settling down in the environs hereabouts:

magpies (nest in holly tree right next to house), bluetwits, greattwits, robins, dunnocks,  starlings, chaffinches, gold finches

Singletons for the moment–wren, bully boy blackbird, great (or middle or lesser-see below) spotted woodpecker, female house sparrow

A few little vignettes of togetherness:

Yesterday morning, the two starlings in the long grass, side by side.  She contentedly pecking at the soft earth, he loaded down with pine needles (there’s plenty more where those came from, boyo!).  I don’t know why I found this little scene touching, maybe because they were working side by side, maybe because he was doing all the heavy lifting (hey, I’m not a scientist, I’m not paid to be objective!  In fact, I’m not paid at all, what’s up with this gig?).

This morning:  A most intriguing scene unfolded at the back of the house right below the guttering.  A gold finch fluttering about in mid-air trying to pick something out of the brick work (it looked string-like), while another gold finch calmly watched from the guttering.  They both flew off, but because I didn’t have my binoculars I couldn’t tell whether they had managed to retrieve the object of so much effort.

We put up some birdhouses, probably a bit too late, but that didn’t stop the blue twit couple from having a bit of a look around the new property.  Caught one hanging from the entrance, while the other watched from a nearby branch, shouting questions (presumably).

I Wouldn’t Mind, But This Is My Yard, Not His!

The togetherness of the robins continue to surprise me.  While one was feeding on the little platform we have outside of the conservatory, the other all of a sudden touched down, there appeared to be a transfer of food between them, and then the second one took off again.

Of course, I am not quite sure whether I am ok with the male, Fuzz as you might remember from previous posts.  He has this habit, how shall I say, not of cutely following me around the garden, but rather overseeing my activities to determine if they suit his requirements. My pal, Colin Tudge, refers to robins perched charmingly on wheelbarrows or gardeners’ heads.  Of course, I’d faint if it ever touched me with its little dinosaur claws, but Fuzz indulges in some herding behavior that isn’t so charming.  I attempted some weeding out the front of the house last weekend, and he was all over the situation.  When he wasn’t loudly proclaiming from the treetops dibs on any worms and insects I turned up, he was plopping himself down when my back was turned inspecting my work, or cooly regarding me from the stone wall, eyeing up my food-bearing potential.  Just as I was starting to chafe under this surveillance, he took off down the side of the house out back, no doubt alerted to some other encroachment on his territory.  I suppose I didn’t help matters much by putting a fat juicy worm on the stone wall, which he made haste to claim and gulp down without any thanks.

It’s like every time I turn around he’s there, watching.

It’s Not All Good News

After being my most faithful assistant for the past month or so, my girlfriend (female blackbird of photo a few posts back) has vanished.  And, I am really missing her.  Missing tripping over her when I come out of the garage.  Or plopping down, wherever I am, patiently waiting (not like that robin!).

My Gal Pal That Was

I think she might have been chased off by a bully boy black bird. She and another female, BrokeBeak (don’t go there), had pretty much worked out their respective territories, although there was some chasing around on the bigger bird’s part. Now it’s just the male, and another female. I don’t think it’s BrokeBeak, unless she’s lost the markings on her beak. But I never see the two together, like all the other couples so not quite sure if they are gettin’ it on, so to speak.

Let’s Not Forget the Adams Family

The specter of three are regular visitors, especially if there’s a fairly biggish piece of bread to be had. I have kind of made my peace with them, especially after reading through the material on Crows.Net (  http://www.crows.net).  They are impressive birds, but I don’t think the farmers around here are at all please with the rather large flock that seems to be roosting in this neighborhood.  Anyway, I was thinking that it was too early for the three to be a family.  I have found a few theories on the web about this:  that it is a family, of a sort.  More like a threesome, where the third usually a female is there as an alternate as it were (although not to put too fine a point on this, the third could be one of the offspring from a previous year).  The other theory is that they are scouts send out by the larger flock to report on the possible pickins’ on a site.

I’m thinking my set (yes, I am possessive with it) is mom, dad, kid for the following reason:  I saw a solitary crow (what I know think was the Kid) start pecking at a chunk of bread I left (I am experimenting with these crows and magpies to see how they will handle food, that isn’t, well, easy to handle).  All of a sudden the male magpie swooped down and practically booted it off, doing a bit of struttin’ after the Kid flew off.  He didn’t have too much time to crow (get it!), as not only did the Kid return, but with major back-up (mom, dad, extended clan). Thought I was going to see a gang-like throwdown. Felt a little anxious. However, exit Magpie pursued by a crow.

But, just this past Saturday, things heated up:  just as the male magpie had touched down to contemplete how much bread he could hoover up, he was followed by 5 or 6 crows intent on the same thing.  One landed, only to be chased off by the magpie, then another two landed, and just when we figured the magpie, outnumbered, would take off, he commenced battle charging at the crows.  We thought for sure he’d had it, but the crows were the ones to turn tail and retreat to the branches above.  But the magoie was not going to let them off easily.  Not only did he fly up into the trees himself, he pursued several of them in the branches.  And then there would be a stand-off.  And then more chasing.  And then they all flew away.    There was a repeat performance this morning, where the magpie chased off another crow.

An interesting follow-up is that once they all fly up into the trees, they engage in some furious branch pecking.  I can’t think they are looking for insects.  Rather, it seems like some form of communication or posturing.  I haven’t been able to find out more about this, though.

Is The Circus In Town?

But it hasn’t been all gangwars and groping, no, the circus came to town or at least one of the clowns (give it some hair volumizer and red pompoms):

Middle Spotted Woodpecker (sexes are alike)

Middle Spotted Woodpecker (sexes are alike) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Discussion

2 thoughts on “‘That Same Old Tail Twirling’ or Is That a Menage a Trois in My Garden? (2)

  1. That naughty dunnock, creeping into the hedge at the first opportunity! I’m quite jealous of her tail twirling ability, wish I could do that.

    Posted by Emily Heath | April 2, 2012, 7:18 pm
  2. An enviable talent, indeed. Can’t move around the garden for all the mating birds and hovering bees who seem quite taken at the moment with a patch of dirt with a few weeds in it intended for potatoes and lettuce.

    Posted by mylatinnotebook | April 3, 2012, 11:21 am

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