Why Birds are as Social as You and Me


I have been doing a lot of bird watching lately. Not the type of bird watching that you need binoculars and a reference list of species for, but more like behavior watching. I have been fascinated by how social they are.

Understand that I study behavior all the time. I majored in Psychology. When I go to sports games or elsewhere with big crowds, I study people instead of the event.

So it was just a matter of time since I finished studying and writing about my dog’s behavior, that I would move onto another species.

It all started one day about a year ago, at my advanced age, that I first noticed birds’ gathering tendencies.

Seeming like a scene out of the Alfred Hitchcock movie The Birds, I was at a supermarket parking lot walking back to my car at dusk when thousands of birds started swooping in on the lot. They covered every tree, every line nearby, and some were even on the top of parked cars.

Apparently in bird world, THIS WAS THE PLACE TO BE. It was more crowded than an NFL game including the tailgaters. Talk about a gathering.

From then on, I couldn’t help myself from watching various gatherings whenever I passed by various spots that birds seem to like. Once you notice this, you can’t help noticing it everywhere. They are there every morning after eating and every night around dusk. They look like this.

BIRDS

It looks like a social gathering to me. What cracks me up is how some arrive early for a good spot. When I was growing up, people rented carts to sit in along Atlantic City’s Boardwalk for the best people watching for those walking up and down the Boardwalk at night. It looked like this.

Rollling chairs 2 for bird blog

The birds remind me of that – staking the best spot for watching the world go by. Or in the case of the Photo above, the Miss America parade. (People gathered there every day, not just on parade day)

What I haven’t quite figured out is how they decide which hot spot to choose. There are many in our area of town.

I did look up the behavior and it is called Roosting.
The crackerjack researcher I am showed me that lots of people are typing in the Google search “Why do birds gather on telephone lines?” Or “Why do birds gather at dusk?”
I guess I wasn’t the only one who wonders about these things.

Sure enough if you read enough about this, they are actually communicating with one another. I KNEW IT.

Bird 1: Find any good worms today?
Bird 2: Nah, slim pickings
Bird 3: It’s better down the block that way
Bird 4: Are you crazy, giving away your plentiful food source?
Bird 3: That’s just how I fly.
Bird 4: (Flapping feathers) Squawk!

Enjoy this video that my husband shot.

3 comments

  • Arlene,
    Once I was watching the movie The Birds on a computer at the college where I used to work. As I sat there, a huge raven came to the glass and began banging insistently on it, a foot away from me and the screen where birds were attacking. He kept coming back until, spooked, I turned off the computer and left.

  • Arlene-I really got a kick of your post – mainly because I have also noticed similarities between birds and humans. Once down the shore I could see the rooftop of a hotel nearby. We were staying at a place that overlooked the roof of the other building. There was a pool. One afternoon I observed birds (seagulls) swimming and congregating at one corner and their human counterparts in the opposite corner doing almost exactly the same thing.

  • wonder if they deal better with empty nest syndrome than I do:(

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