Animal Diaries Archive
Birds of a Feather
22 February 2008
Ever heard the saying “birds of a feather flock together”? When it comes to observing birds, it is very easy to see why our feathered friends became the inspiration for this age old saying.
No one can deny the magnificence of a flock of yellow tail black cockatoos as they fly overhead, their raucous yet oddly melodic tune carrying through the wind; the carefree sense of freedom and the vision of the scenic country at the thought of a gaggle of ducks or geese; and of course nothing is more reminiscently Australian or more uplifting, than the joyous call of a family of Kookaburras.
The gathering of birds is far more significant than simply hanging out with someone else who looks and sounds like you. Birds seek alignment with those of the same species as well as those of different species for many reasons. But there is always one common thread - SURVIVAL.
Lets take the Kookaburra for example - truly an Australian icon and one of our smallest birds of prey. Kookaburras are territorial carnivores, who will hunt their own prey, but family members are often close by and watch the event. Kookaburras will commune as a family to share the larger profits of their hunting skills and share in the task of raising young. Their amazing call often starts with one individual and as their single call climbs to a crescendo of laughter, the others in the family group join in to complete chorus and verse - proudly stating their support.
Whilst they provide us with a beautiful chorus of song, which we all delight in, their song can strike fear into the hearts of many other birds. You see, Kookaburras not only have exceptional eye sight, amazing speed, incredible accuracy and strong talon pressure which allow them to identify, whoop upon and seize prey such as snakes and mice, but they are also notorious nest robbers – of other birds that is.
But don’t feel too sorry for the birds threatened by the Kookaburra or feel too sore with the Kookaburra itself. You see, the Kookaburra hunts the way it does to ensure its own survival and that of its species. A pair will only hatch one young each breeding season and it takes the entire family to raise the youngster to the point that it can fend for itself and assist in the “family responsibilities”. So you see, the Kookaburra numbers are not quickly built and they must use the skills and unique qualities that nature has given them to ensure their survival. And unfortunately, this does mean that the young of some of the more prolific breeders fall prey in the process.
On the other hand, when it comes to the seemingly defenseless birds which may fall prey to our majestic Kookaburra and other birds of prey for that matter, who hasn’t laughed at the antics and been in absolute awe of the tenacity of the noisy minor bird? The WHOLE family, which can easily consist of 20 or more members, will fearlessly take on whatever presents itself in their territory, which they perceive as a threat. Whether they are taking on a soft hearted Rottweiler who happens to be snooping innocently around the yard, the neighbor hood cat that is peacefully resting in the grass or the watchful Kookaburra scanning the territory for its next feed, their determination and resolve is to be admired.
The family of Noisy Minors will instinctively group together and unrelentingly pester, dive bomb, bombard, in fact nothing short of terrorise the perceived threat. Not only do they physically attack the potential threat, they also call incessantly in a high pitched, shrill tone. So consistent, regimented, persistent and unrelenting are they in what almost appears to be a choreographed performance, both the unsuspecting and the menacing equally have their enthusiasm dampened and their attention distracted to the point that they have no choice other than to move on. Ah….never under estimate the unified intention and determination of all the little voices as they flock together like birds of a feather, for a common cause.