When Predators Threaten, Great Tits Do A Tit-For-Tat
Birds of a feather stick together, and never is this more true than when predators try to invade their nests. Now, in early spring you can watch the crows ganging up against the predator hawks, the blue jays against the predator crows, and the mockingbirds against the predator blue jays, crows, and hawks. But a new Oxford University study of a common British bird, the Great Tit, shows that when the larger birds or other predators come around, they will gang up, even with other bird species, to come to the aid of their neighbors.
Researchers questioned why certain birds who nested in the same spot, or nearby, year after year had more numerous live chicks than some other birds. When they observed the habits of the Great Tit, they found that in response to distress calls from their neighbors, the Great Tits joined mobs of other neighborhood birds to attack the predator.
Ada Graowska-Zhang, who led the study, said that the mobbing only occurred in situations where the specific birds nested near each other for at least the previous year. And she did not think that they helped each other survive out of selflessness.
Chances are that they think "My nest could be next," Ms. Graowska-Zhang said. "Or they join because their neighbors have joined their mobs before, and they know if they don't reciprocate, they'll be left alone next time. It's sort of a great tit-for-tat."
That's the buzz for today!