Monday, May 07, 2007

Gang Awareness and Other Backyard Behaviors

All law enforcement officers across the country are required to take many hours of in-service courses and many of them are State-mandated. I found one of them particularly interesting as I browsed the description of a course entitled “Gang Awareness (& Street Drug Investigation)”. Behaviors and characteristics of potential criminal activities in gangs are discussed in this course and I found some similarities between this course offering and my own backyard dynamics I study every day.

My brain is mush tonight so the following descriptions and analogies are silly. Please bear with me.


Common Grackles thrive in gangs. Together, they fly to the feeders at breakneck speed causing the station to bounce, sending the finches off their feet in a springing motion. I rarely see just one grackle. The one in the photo above is alone because they all flee before I can raise my camera! They are easily frightened wimps even though they certainly look quite fierce and mighty. The gang membership dynamic works for them.


Starlings also travel with a gang and although they aren’t quite as large and overwhelming as the Grackles, they have the snotty attitude that makes up for it in a big way. They push and shove their way around and usually get what they want. When alerted, they take off as fast the Grackles do while the smaller, dim-witted birds like Mourning Doves, Robins, and Finches wait it out and stand firm.

Mockers get all bent out of shape when the Grackles and Starlings are hogging the space and they are great security guards, offering assistance to fellow feeder dwellers. Sometimes a Mocker can annoy the heck out of these two species and cause them to flee. The Mocker’s flashes of white and gray swirl around the largest crows and drive them off effectively.

Often I hear a familiar small bird voice from a distance and suddenly, in a flash, the birds disappear! It’s an alarm that sounds from this small bird and all the rest heed to it.

When this happens I first look for a hawk nearby then I watch the vacant feeders for a few seconds. Just beyond the feeders, I see a tiny, swift, black and white aircraft hover up and down, coming in for a landing.


Chief Chickadee, Gang Specialist

“Mmmm. Quiet. Nice for me! Tee hee!”

This small Chief can really pack a punch when it feels like it and is very skilled in crowd control and gang management.

Then there are the lurkers, the birds and other furry critters that arrive at the feeders or ground and seem to be dying of anxiety attacks. They hardly take a step without scanning 360.


Are you yelling at me? (Rocky, the bull-headed.)

Gee, I don’t think she likes me…


I’m outta here!

The Rock Doves (pigeons?) stop by every day around 5pm. They must wear wristwatches to be so prompt. See nervous Claude there, peeking at me? Claude has a friend. If there is just a bit of movement from the house, they are history and will land on a rooftop and watch from afar. But today, I was the paparazzi!


Dear, you look just lovely tonight.

Oh, stop it, Claude. You’re making me blush.

May I have the honor?

Ooooo. (Fumbling camera) Ahem!

Perhaps they will nest near the paparazzi’s house?

(Once again, I am not a pervert. I’m just a curious bystander…and I thought these birds were SHY.)


KGMom said...

Mary--birds do it, bees do it. . .etc.
I am entranced with birds that exhibit gang behavior and use it to drive off other birds. Grackles going after crows; crows going after hawks or falcons. It amazes me.
I love the squirrel photo with the white belly showing and the fur ruffled in layers. Great shot.
I am in awe of your photographic skills.

Larry said...

-Great captions to go with the pictures.-Sounds like you are studying your bird behaviors-good job!
That first squirrel caption is an absolute classic-I'm still chuckling thinking about it.

Anonymous said...

Mary - love the squirrel talk! and what are those pigeons doing?? Only kidding, but can't believe you got pictures of them doing that!

Ruth said...

I am ready to cage my gang of squirrels who have eaten all my tulips and pirate the bird feeders. love the doves!

Susie said...

I totally understand the behavior of some of these birds (others are new to me) Of course, I totally understand the squirrels. They are cute, but pesky!
I think the most agressive bird I've seen at our feeder is the red winged blackbird. He makes the others scatter quickly!
Great pics as usual :)

dmmgmfm said...

First frog porn, now pigeon crack me up, Mary.

I loved your captions, the squirrel pictures were priceless.

Thanks for sharing.

Susan Gets Native said...

Awww...those pigeons are trying to make more little pigeons that will come and visit your feeders. God bless 'em.

You kill me. That's all. You just freakin' kill me.

Alyssa said...

Hi Mary, It is really interesting to watch birds and animals interacting. It's fun to attribute human characteristics to them even though they're just doing their own thing. Unfortunately, these introduced birds are thuggish and spoil things. You know Mozart kept a starling in a cage because of the beautiful singing the bird did. It inspired him! So I guess there is something good in everything. Pretty, pretty photos. Thank you, Alyssa

entoto said...

Lord, honey! Rooftop action. I cannot remember the last time I saw something so precarious. Amazing!

Jayne said...

LOLOL Mary! What a fun analogy indeed! Now we have pigeon porn!! I can just imagine it now.... pigeon game show... "What was the craziest place you made whoopie? Well... there was this one time on the rooftop!"

Beth said...

Pigeon porn. Sigh.

Great pics. Clever girl.

Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

...wiping coffee off the monitor...
LOL!! You win the best pic caption award for 2007!!
Too dang funny!

Dorothy said...

Mary your blog gets a gold star for being so funny! The pigeons on the roof...and that squirrel..too cute.
Your mind being mush last night has brightened up my Tuesday morning, that's for sure!

Verena said...

Hi Mary,
I do love squarrels, you are happy to have some in your own garden! Squarrels are always a memory of my childhood - we always went to a big park with my parents and there were a lot of them. It´s so sad, that there are not that much any more!
Lots of greetings, Verena

Q said...

Dear Mary,
I have yet to see the Chick-a-dees on security. Will look for that. I enjoyed your birds today.
Glad you had nice spring rain you were due some.
Your photos are so pretty.
You are a photographer as well as an artist and a wonderful, understanding Mom.
Baltimore Orioles are on the way.
I just know it!
I would like a couple of Indigo Buntings please!

Chrissie said...

Lol! You know you can be arrested for this sort of stuff :-) Name and shame the bullies I say! Great pics, great post!

Susan Gets Native said...

And to make you feel better about the pigeons, Mary:
What do you call a white dove? A PIGEON.

Unknown said...

You crack me up. I had to scroll through quickly though . . . what if Ruby had seen those squirrels . . . she might have taken out my new monitor! :)

Bird porn again. . . Mary! Have you no shame? (Well, really, that's what we should be saying to the birds! Sheesh!)

Gotta Garden said...

You are so funny! This was a great read! I enjoy your posts...always entertaining! Such great bird shots, too...and Mr. Squirrel, although I am not one of his fans! Bird Gangs! So true!

Elaine Cougler Author said...

Well, I never! I mean, really, I never see birds doing this. Amazing. You must be very patient to get these shots.

cestoady said...

My, you have a lot going on in that yard of yours -- even on the roof.

If you are still interested in ponds you have to see: -- do not miss it.

Cathy said...

Silly? I think you've made some important sociological observations.

That's great writing for a mush-brain:0)