Birds flock together and enjoy benefits

PUBLISHED: 12:32 01 September 2006 | UPDATED: 22:10 28 May 2010

Have you ever wondered why small birds team up in flocks outside the breeding season? There are many good reasons for a bird to join a flock. Many of your garden birds are currently in these mixed gangs, roaming the countryside and enjoying the benefits t

Have you ever wondered why small birds team up in flocks outside the breeding season?

There are many good reasons for a bird to join a flock. Many of your garden birds are currently in these mixed gangs, roaming the countryside and enjoying the benefits that being sociable brings.

Firstly, more pairs of eyes means there is more chance of spotting danger approaching. Even if you are a bird with your head down, there will be others in the flock that have their heads up at that time.

If a sparrowhawk or cat is near, the early warning signal will be given in good time enabling a quick escape to be made.

Another good reason for joining a flock is that there will be members of the team that know where there are good sources of food. Tag along and follow them and an easy meal awaits you.

Birds probably watch out for particularly well-fed individuals at communal roosts at night. The following morning they will then follow those individuals to wherever they have been fattening up.

Flocks present young birds with an opportunity to learn from older birds. They can pick up all sorts of tips on things from food finding to escaping predators and how to become dominant, ready for when they need to set up their first breeding territory the following spring.

There are always minor scuffles in a flock and there are usually experienced, dominant, older birds leading the way. This gives the youngsters a chance to practise asserting themselves, an important skill if they are to be successful.

I saw probably the biggest mixed tit flock I have ever seen recently. It was huge. I counted 172 birds moving between the treetops. This was a sign of a very good breeding season for tits I would imagine (there were coal, blue, great and long-tailed tits in the flock, with several goldcrests).

It was a rapidly moving gang and such flocks never linger for long in one spot. They perform circuits of the same area and in doing so become familiar with the best spots in which to find food.

It is a wonderful sight to see a big flock of small birds carefully making their way through a wood or along a hedgerow and September is a great month to enjoy them. So if there are no birds in your garden, why not go and find them in the countryside?

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