Everything has it's beauty, but not everyone sees it. - Confucius
Sometimes the picture doesn't have to be perfect; it's the captured moment that counts. - me
No Google Adds here.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Some strange behaviour

Yesterday was one of those days when the sun shone, but it still managed to be cold. Well, I’ve got a coat, so I went out. I went to one of my favourite reserves; Summer Leys. You can always guarantee something of interest, and yesterday was no exception. A good variety of birds, a couple of firsts for this year, and some strange behaviour. Strange to me, anyway. I’ve never noticed it before.

The other birds I’ll do another time, but today I want to share this particular bird.

The Robin

The ‘cute’ pose. Now they’re very territorial, and often chase off intruders to their space. There’s a hide at Summer Leys that has a few feeders outside, so even the Robins have to restrain themselves a bit, or else they’d never get any feeding done.
I sat watching the birds coming and going; Blue Tits, Greenfinches, Tree Sparrows, a few Robins and Blackbirds, and then I noticed this one.

I’ve not stretched it in the processing; it’s a bit of posturing by the Robin. But what was it all about?
Enter stage right………….

another one. They both stood, facing each other, swaying from side to side.

Usually I’ve seen them chase each other away, or on the rare occasions resort to a bit of fighting, before one takes off. But this was something different. Something I’ve never seen before.
A courtship dance, maybe?

Whatever it was, it had me enthralled while it all unfolded for a few minutes before me. And then the posturing stopped. They both parted, and got on with the business of feeding.

My money’s on a courtship dance; unless anyone else knows what was happening?


  1. How wonderful for you to see such a divine moment, but it is even better that you are able to share it with us.
    I think it must be a courtship dance to, bless them..

  2. I haven't a clue Keith, very interesting never the less. great to see such things.

  3. Great shots of the Robins. The only courtship activity I have seen is where the female flutters her wings like a hungry chick and the male feeds her. My guess would be aggressive posturing, showing off the red breast feathers in a stand off situation.

    I found this on the BTO site: "The red breast (associated with fire-bringing and the cross in legend) plays an important part in the threat display and is held so that an intruding Robin sees as much of the territory holder's breast as possible."


  4. Thanks Gemel. Not sure what it was, but certainly interesting to watch.

    Cheers Adrian. Always something to learn about the world around us.

    Thanks John. I’ve seen that behaviour before, the wing fluttering.
    You may well be right about the aggressive behaviour. I usually just see the chasing away.
    Must be the old romantic in me, thinking it was love lol

  5. Hi Keith,
    Very funny indeed!!! I guess they are kind of testing their level of hormones!!! I'm the best, now I'm... That kind of things ;-)
    Beautiful post you got thanks to these two guys!

  6. David lack wrote the classic 'Life of the Robin' back in the 1940s, and from memory he describes this as territorial behaviour - two males fighting. I'd recommend that everyone read his book - it's the first readily accessible behavioural study of birds I know of - he really started this field. He colour-ringed individuals so that he could track their behaviour, and was able to gain a huge number of insights. He also used a stuffed robin to study aggression. Things have moved along a little since then (for example the whole extra-pair mating side of things), but it still repays reading. I read it when I was about 10 or 11 - it's why I became more interested in birds as animals to study rather than to just tick off!

  7. Sorry meant to say - excellent shots!

  8. What great captures. My money is on an aggressive display, they looked, to me, like they were 'fronting up' to each other. Fascinating behaviour whatever it was.

  9. I think John is right Keith about it being aggressive behaviour. It was a bit like a "Mexican Stand off". Quite amazing shots though.

  10. Ohhh....how very cool. I prefer the courtship dance as well! If it was aggressive behavior they were very polite little fellows about it! :-)

  11. Cheers Chris. Like teenagers on a Saturday night when the pub’s turn out lol

    Thanks Mark. Sounds worth trying to find a copy of that book. Cheers.

    Thanks Jan. I think the ‘aggressive behaviour’ wins it :)

    Roy, thank you. I bet I see a lot more of this behaviour now that I’ve seen it once ;)

    Kelly, thank you. They were probably the politest fighters in history lol

  12. I saw this behaviour last year, and I agree with the others, I would say it is aggression. I have noticed of late, a Robin with a scared face - this I noticed last year in February, several Robins with scared faces. You have captured the two Robins' stand off brilliantly:-)

  13. Thanks Linda. Something I've never seen before. I usually just see them chasing each other. Fascinating to watch.

  14. after reading all of the above I was going with aggressive display and now Im more convinced--Either way im sure it was a thrill to observe this!!

  15. It's aggression. No, it is courtship. Now I am confused.

  16. I wouldn't begin to guess what they were doing, but your photos are SUPERB. You captured it perfectly.


  17. Thanks Dixxe. Aggression seems the favourite here. It was interesting to watch.

    Thanks Bob. I was confused when I was watching it all :)

    Jen, thank you for your comment. Nature never ceases to surprise or amaze me. I’m glad I managed to capture it all.

  18. I have seen this posturing in our Common Grackle and they add a puffed up look to it as well. Never saw our robins do it but they don't tolerate each other too well at certain times of the year.

  19. Thanks Abe. Seems its a bit of a territorial thing, although I've never seen it before. There were half a dozen Robins there, but only this pair behaving like that. Fascinating to watch though.

  20. wow - these are wonderful birds and beautiful shots!!

  21. Joanna, thank you for your comment. Appreiated :)

  22. Thanks for Your comment and I hope You will check my blog from time to time. I know that I can learn a lot from You. I haven't done a good photo of a bird in my lifetime.


  23. Whow...territorial display..not often captured. Well done my friend. FAB

  24. Joanna, I've started to follow your blog. You've got some excellent pictures on there.

    Cheers Frank. It had me enthralled while it all happened.

  25. I've seen this before in 2008; on my garden wall with 3 Robins. I think it had more to do with territory than love.

    You can always ask one of the wardens, next time you visit the reserve.

  26. Sorry, Keith, what I meant to say is that in the cold spell (not really a spell anymore is it?) the two Robins don't want to spent any energy on aggressive behaviour like fighting. So I gather that this was their winter display of fighting over who gets what.

  27. Thanks for stopping by and commenting Yoke. Makes a lot of sense to conserve energy this weather, and just 'strut' like that.
    Yea, this 'cold spell' has gone on far too long now lol