Saturday, 19 June 2010

Squabs and squabbles

Just been observing some extraordinary behaviour that I have read about but only witnessed for the first time this evening. A Woodpigeon squab, a baby pigeon who hasn't fully fledged yet, has been in the garden on and off for the last couple of days, looking rather dazed and subdued. He can feed himself, but pecks at grain and seed on the ground in such a desultory way and seems to spend most of his time sitting with eyes closed or half open, head sunk deep into his neck and slumped inert. Not long ago, I looked up to see an adult Woodpigeon jumping on top of this baby, viciously pecking at the top of his skull, kicking at him and batting him with both wings and claws. I opened the conservatory door and the adult flew away, but the baby pigeon was stunned and unsteady and stayed around. You can see from the picture the slight damage inflicted on his crown by the adult and there were feathers plucked out on the ground.

I have googled and found other mentions of this behaviour but as yet no explanation. Does the adult know something is wrong with this little one and that he will not survive the scrutiny of passing Sparrowhawks and other predators? Is the adult trying to "toughen him up" to make more effort towards his own survival? Is the adult his parent or a rival? I'd love to know the answers, but know that any human effort to intervene might well be attempting to "play God" in a situation I do not understand. Watch this space. As of tonight, the squab was feeding again, albeit with movements that suggest he is not completely thriving yet, in the presence of an adult Woodie who ignored him completely this time and flew off, leaving him in peace to shelter for the night under my berberis near the pergola.

Another behaviour that has been going on for the last month or so is the constant unrelenting harassment of my resident pair of Magpies by my two Collared Doves, who look as if butter wouldn't melt in their dainty mouths! Every time one of the Magpies appears, it is chased all over the garden and then away into the surrounding trees by one or both of the Doves. They simply won't let it lie! The Magpies never seem to retaliate (in spite of their reputation). They try all they can simply to outfly or outsmart the Doves, splitting up so while the Collared Dove chases one through the undergrowth trying to land on its back or head, the other can feed for a few snatched moments undisturbed. No doubt at all, the Dove has her reasons, maybe to keep the Magpies at bay from taking her own chicks. Attack is the best form of defence, and all that! The Collared Dove has thrived since it was first introduced to our shores in the late 1950s. Its numbers and dominance are always on the up and up, defying trends of decline in many other of our garden species. So the Magpie may not be able to look forward to a quiet life on this side of the Parousia!

1 comment:

  1. I've never heard about this behaviour with the young wood pigeon. Can't have been nice to observe!

    I know the magpies are being warded off because they will definitely take the doves' chicks. We had a predatory magpie a couple of years ago that went into a hedge and one by one brought the chicks out. Quite disgusting.

    Right now I think some of my finches have got mites in their throats. I've problems before and have to stop feeding if it's the case and really clean all the feeders. Seems to only affect the finches but it's a really sad sight.

    If only we could observe the happy events without the disturbing ones - hey ho!