Bird Body Lamguage

By Dave Hanks

Body language, from one individual, will affect the behavior of another.There are several situations that affect a bird’s actions: courtship, aggression in order to maintain distance, appeasement to ward off a fight, begging for food, greeting one’s mate, and so on.

Courtship displays usually emphasize one’s feather colors in the most striking way like strutting or fluffing. Showing off special athletic abilities like leaping, aerial acrobatics, or prey catching ability, can be very appealing to potential mates. Mates may greet each other and strengthen their pair bond by pointing their beaks skywards or clacking their mandibles together.

Birds that are very territorial, like TOWNSEND’S SOLITAIRE, not only use song to warn away trespassers, but make threat displays to keep potential intruders at a distance. Distance between competitors prevents fighting that may result in injury to the combatants. Some threat displays include the raising of head feathers or crests, fluffing body feathers to look larger, or just jutting the head forward. Submissive behavior would be demonstrated by lowering the head, or turning sideways or away. This aggressive, long-tailed gray bird, that has prominent eye rings and rusty wing patches, is well named. It is a “loner”.

It summers in high western mountains where there is an ample supply of juniper trees. In winter it lives almost exclusively on juniper berries. Nests are usually on the ground, a decaying tree stub, or in a nook or hollow beneath some sort of overhanging item that shelters the nest from above.

This aggressive cousin of the robin is rarely seen in the presence of others of its own species, except perhaps in small groups during migration. This migration is from High to Low Mountain or latitudinally to where juniper berries are abundant.

The defensive nature of the solitaire makes viewing of it less frequent. We have also observed, that when showing itself, that it is usually in the dim light of early morning or dusk.

(Townsend’s Solitaire – notice eye ring and small wing patch)