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Flock on flock bird war
Posted by Tony on 7th July 2013 at 00:31:51
I'm far from the most dedicated twitcher, it having taken most of my life to start to notice how interesting bird behaviour could get. One easily recognised highlight of bird behaviour is a flock of potential prey birds mobbing a raptor which keeps trying to take one on the wing. In recent years I can remember three distinct events, all in suburban skies and each with a different prey/mobbing species. Such events are easier to watch that to try to record as they move fast and unpredictably, but what I saw yesterday was something else again.

The location was somewhere I visit monthly with bird observation the last thing on my mind, roughly where the undergrounded Stony Creek crosses Monash Street. The Indian Myna is the least popular invasive avian, familiarly seen in small numbers but harder to instantly recognise in larger flocks on the wing. Just before 3:00 pm a moderate flock approached from the west which I only positively identified as Mynas because of what followed as they were almost overhead.

Suddenly the sky was an explosion of birds scrambling in all directions with the kind of tight patterns that had me looking for a raptor, only to realise it was a numerically comparable flock of Silver Gulls that was leading the attack. As spectacular as that minute was it was over as fast, as the Mynahs conceded the skies and settled mostly in small groups on power lines and poles while the Gulls seized control of the sky. If we thought humans the only vertebrate species capable of organised warfare, we were wrong yet again.

Only hours earlier we had a conversation at home about Ravens and Sulphur Crested Cockatoos not sharing the same space, despite how commonly either is seen in widely varying numbers, one of my criteria for social intelligence, an attribute I've very recently extended to Silver Gulls. Humans' self-importance keeps blindsiding us to other species being at least as evolved and competent within their niche. Now it seems Gulls know how to bomb more than photos. Our cameras keep getting better for both stills and video, but I've no idea how you would even start trying to record the battle I saw in the sky which even my ageing eyes could take in simultaneously in the large and in the detail,

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