Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Pale Male Report and Why Do the Play Patterns of Young Squirrels and Young Nuthatches Look So Similar?

 Photo courtesy of

Pale Male, the ever diligent Dad, with a pigeon, Columba livia, which will help feed his family for the day.

Today's Pale Male Report, from longtime correspondent and now blog contributor Jeff Johnson--

Ms Browne,

Two fledges were in the Park on Cedar Hill just north of the Sailboat Pond at 1800 today. [6:00PM, D.B.] I got a few frames of one with a whopping big meal.

I'd not seen any interaction with either of the parents, but it's difficult to believe that the fledge caught it. It would be master hunting skills developed overnight !

From the size and tail feathers I think it was a Rock Pigeon.

Just behind the fledgling you can see a Blue Jay about to hassle him/her. Blue Jays and Sparrows were really giving the fledgling fits. Their harassment was dedicated and persistent so that the fledgling dropped the meal onto the walkway underneath its perch after about fifteen minutes.

When bystanders couldn't be persuaded to stand away, Lincoln Karim picked the fledgling's meal up and moved it to a more remote spot where it would retrieve it.

 I had to depart scene before the fledge reclaimed its meal, but I'm sure it happened.


Many thanks Jeff, we can't wait to see the photos!

 Next up, like many of you I've been watching juvenile passerines come to my feeders for years and though I've often seen adult White-breasted Nuthatches feeding, not until today have I observed the juveniles attempting to figure out how to access sunflower seeds from the wire feeder.

Initially I was so fascinated by the antics I didn't even go grab my camera for fear of missing something.

Young Nuthatch was climbing up and down the feeder in the manner he'd use a tree-- up, down, poke, poke.  Forget those handy dandy perches.  Then he'd stick his beak in and instead of pulling the seed out and then eating it, he was attempting to shell it and swallow with his bill still inside the feeder.

Then to add insult to injury, another juvenile, typical of sibling squirrels, jumped out of the air at the original one and they both took off for the high branches of the adjacent Maple.  

Where they each took a place about a foot apart on a branch and continued the game of Jump At The Sibling.  Sibling 1 jumps in the air at Sibling 2 who veers off and and then jumps back at Sibling 1 who jumps back.  Very similar to the antics of young squirrels.  Interesting.

After that sequence, they then chased each other up and down the trunk of the tree.  Also very squirrel-like.  Weird to have young mammals and young birds playing such a similar "game".

Then it struck me.  Not strange at all!  Both species spend a great deal of their lives rapidly perambulating  up and down on the bark of trees often with their heads in the lead.

Similar activity in species,  even those who are two footed with wings and those with four feet and no wings in different branches of the animal kingdom, can lead to similar "play" in their young.


You just never know when you'll discover that what  may seem odd in the beginning, ultimately turns out to make perfect sense once you, attend to it and don't discount the similarity just because the creatures are in different man made categories .

But we knew that.  Sometimes we just have to be reminded yet again that attending can fill our lives with wonder.

Donegal Browne


Anonymous said...

Young scrub jays play in very similar ways--chasing each other around on the ground; jumping at each other with wings spread, the jumped on one leaping back in mock terror. I watched as their Dad (identifed because of his band) taught them to "be jays"--how to hunt and find food and how to hide it for the future. The babies also loved to play in the bird bath together--splashing each other like toddlers. Betty Jo

Donegal Browne said...

Betty Jo, I've often wondered, considering the intelligence of Jays. whether there was training of the young that involved the passing on of learned behavior from previous generations, much in the way that other adaptable smart species like Red-tails do.

Thank you so much for answering one of the questions that's been on
"my list" for ever so long!