February 2, 2023


pets keep it coming

Do Real Birds Get Angry?

3 min read

Have you ever been dive-bombed by an angry bird? Were you ever a witness to one bird attacking another? You better believe birds get angry! They become agitated in several different situations, and to diverse degrees; most notably in defense of their:

· Territory

· Family

· Food source or sources

A tufted titmouse has defined his territory by declaring his claim from the treetops of that area. In doing so, he’s attracted the attention of a potential mate. She likes his vocalizations, and the cut of his jib. Then in flies another male tufted titmouse; this will never do! Our intrepid little friend got there first, and he will dispatch the intruder post haste.

Titmice tend to be quite feisty, even though they are diminutive birds. Our hero has proven his prowess to the female, and in fact has sealed the deal! He has demonstrated to her that their offspring will carry the same traits and be able to take care of themselves when the time comes.

Our happy couple has built a cozy nest, and their clutch of eggs has hatched. Mr. Titmouse stands guard at different points around his territory. He’s vigilantly watching for four-footed or winged critters that would dare to approach his family. Any such attacker would be met with the wrath of this warrior male! If loud scolding doesn’t do the trick, he will go so far as to peck at them with his beak, snatch at them with his talons, and bang into them with his body, despite the possible danger to himself.

Food sources are guarded like gold bullion. You can imagine how you would feel should someone try to break in and steal the contents of your fridge and pantry. Providing nutrition for a growing family is strong motivation to defend those reserves. The same is true in the animal kingdom. It’s hard work finding enough food for a bunch of big, wide open beaks. Tiny birds have such big mouths!

American crows tend to be hot-headed and easily irritated when they perceive possible dangers to their family, province or food supply. Being very large birds, they will not hesitate to attack any would-be interloper. If necessary, they will muster their gang to assist in the assault.

Not all birds react violently when a threat is perceived. Just like humans, they all have distinct personalities as well as differing thresholds of anger responses. Some species are naturally docile and not prone to violence at all. Eastern Bluebirds, for example, will stand by while another bird moves into their bird house and destroys their nest!

So then we need to know why some birds ‘back off’ and wait until other birds fly away. Or, if two birds of the same species come to the feeder at once, why does one go sit on a perch and let the other one eat its fill before it can dine?

When birds meet, markers visible to them in the ultraviolet light wavelength transmit information letting other birds know who’s who, so to speak. These markers define higher-ranking birds, those of other species that are known to be easily riled, more senior aviators, and so on.

Hierarchy isn’t just for royalty in the human realm. Class distinction and seniority rule in the bird world as well. Younger birds must wait for older birds; less intensely-colored birds must yield to those with richer hues, etc. If a bird should attempt to ‘buck the system’, you can be sure that it will be met with an angry come-uppance from its ‘superiors’.

Who would have thought that such avian goings-on occur on a daily basis around the globe. It’s tough out there in the wild world of birds. As always, in the natural world it is ‘survival of the fittest’, and sometimes angriest, that determines the victor.

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