Bird Encounters

Here’s a small sample of what happens when birds encounter one another. At this time of year we’re spared the dramatics that happen around mating and breeding; we’ve seen some of that with the White-tailed Kites and the Red-winged Blackbirds, and sometimes the big grebes, all in Spring. What we see here is mostly the everyday encounter such as we humans might have on a street. Generally the birds avoid confrontations. An exception is the first episode in the video, when a pair of Western Gulls set up a screaming wall against a lone Ring-billed Gull and drive it away. Western Gulls are known as short-tempered aggressive birds with a strong territorial drive. Worldwide there are far more Ring-billed Gulls than Western, but locally the Ring-billed are not seen so often, and this individual appeared to be a loner without backup. So, off it went, probably muttering some choice gull epithets.

The encounter between the Great Egret and the Double-crested Cormorant at the Schoolhouse Creek outfall is one in a series. The egret likes the mouth of the big pipe and often stands there quietly waiting for prey to swim by in the brackish water. But today the cormorant with its busy dives totally disturbs the water. It catches the fish even when they’re deep and out of the egret’s range. With the cormorant active, the egret has no chance. Birds don’t have facial expressions, but I’m guessing that the egret is highly annoyed. Its rapid pace as it departs expresses its frustration. The Great Blue Heron in this same setting a year ago took a different line from the Great Egret. It let fly at the cormorant with its giant beak and drove it away; see “Bossy Blue,” Sep 4 2021.

The other encounters in this little video display avoidance of conflict. One Snowy Egret politely steps out of the way of another that is trying to pass. Two Willets come together for a nap. A Great Egret normally forages in the shallows on the water’s edge, but when a quartet of giant White Pelicans invades this territory, the egret doesn’t raise a fuss; with a few wingbeats it avoids the conflict zone. When their hormones aren’t whipped up in breeding mode and there aren’t chicks to protect, birds are mostly quite polite and civil by our standards.

Here are two additional recent bird encounter photos taken by Susan Black in the morning of September 28.

A Great Blue Heron and a Snowy Egret meet up with an American White Pelican. Susan Black photo.
The Black-crowned Night-Heron ignores the passing pelicans and cormorants. Susan Black photo.

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