This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.

← Great tits join mobs with neighbours they know

Great tits join mobs with neighbours they know - Comments

Anonymous's Avatar Comment 1 by Anonymous

Comment Removed by Moderator

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 12:55:25 UTC | #937194

Anonymous's Avatar Comment 2 by Anonymous

Comment Removed by Moderator

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 12:56:12 UTC | #937195

Moderator's Avatar Comment 3 by Moderator

Moderators' message

Is it too much to hope that on a site dedicated to reason and science we might be able to avoid childish comments, please?

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 13:14:59 UTC | #937201

78rpm's Avatar Comment 4 by 78rpm

So did I, Craig B. (Comment 1).

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 13:21:57 UTC | #937203

hellosnackbar's Avatar Comment 5 by hellosnackbar

The evidence to support evolutionary survival amongst animals by observing their behaviour marches on.

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 13:25:17 UTC | #937205

ridelo's Avatar Comment 6 by ridelo

"One: birds join their neighbours because they think: 'My nest could be next.' "Or they join because their neighbours have joined their mobs before, and they know that if they don't reciprocate, they'll be left alone next time. It's sort of great tit tit-for-tat."

Do they really make that reasoning or is it so that birds who have this behaviour baked in their genes have more chances for survival, without 'knowing' why they behave so? A bit like people who blindly follow charismatic leaders without really understanding why they do that.

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 14:13:49 UTC | #937221

Anonymous's Avatar Comment 7 by Anonymous

Comment Removed by Moderator

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 14:34:08 UTC | #937225

crookedshoes's Avatar Comment 8 by crookedshoes

This is a case of the great tit expecting reciprocal altruism coupled with safety in numbers.

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 14:38:09 UTC | #937226

Anonymous's Avatar Comment 9 by Anonymous

Comment Removed by Moderator

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 14:39:16 UTC | #937228

Anonymous's Avatar Comment 10 by Anonymous

Comment Removed by Moderator

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 14:49:46 UTC | #937230

Anvil's Avatar Comment 11 by Anvil

I see this all the time from my office window - how lucky am I!.

Watching the interactions of birds, both resident and migratory is taking up more and more of my working day. One only hopes I win the lottery soon as something has to pay for me turning into a twitcher.

One thing I have noticed, aside from intra-species cooperation, is a seeming inter-species cooperation in order to defend a territory from outside aggression.

Has anyone else observed anything like this?

Anvil.

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 15:01:48 UTC | #937235

LongDarkHair's Avatar Comment 12 by LongDarkHair

Good grief! Considering this is an international website, the author could have at least tried to moderate the title of her article, instead of leaving it looking like it's a line from a Carry On film...

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 15:42:05 UTC | #937240

mr_DNA's Avatar Comment 13 by mr_DNA

Comment 3 by Moderator :

Moderators' message

Is it too much to hope that on a site dedicated to reason and science we might be able to avoid childish comments, please?

To be fair you are really putting us in temptations way here. I was sorely tempted myself to making a shool boys comment ( When nobody had made a comment ) but lost my bottle.

Part of me thinks that this species needs as much laughter as it can get because of its proven value as a de-stresser.

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 15:47:17 UTC | #937243

aquilacane's Avatar Comment 14 by aquilacane

Comment 6 by ridelo

"One: birds join their neighbours because they think: 'My nest could be next.' "Or they join because their neighbours have joined their mobs before, and they know that if they don't reciprocate, they'll be left alone next time. It's sort of great tit tit-for-tat."

Do they really make that reasoning or is it so that birds who have this behaviour baked in their genes have more chances for survival, without 'knowing' why they behave so? A bit like people who blindly follow charismatic leaders without really understanding why they do that.

Great Tits mob because the Great Tits that don't are extinct... or very lucky

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 16:18:02 UTC | #937251

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 15 by Schrodinger's Cat

The article left me somewhat confused as to whether they'd clearly established that it was just the 'calls' that evoked the neighbour response...or whether visual sighting was required as well.

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 16:27:14 UTC | #937252

ewaldrep's Avatar Comment 16 by ewaldrep

There were already apparently many "childish" comments but I thought it was a rather crude manner of expressing a psychological phenomena such as attractiveness being associated with higher "perception" of intelligence and promotions. I am not sure, are the great tits, or other birds for matter, affected by phermones in a similar manner to mammals? If I'm not mistaken, there is evidence for the release of oxytocin in response to phermone stimulation. I wonder if anybody has investigated neurobiological substrates of the long term neighboring great tits?

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 16:49:27 UTC | #937260

Agrajag's Avatar Comment 17 by Agrajag

I suspect there's an evolutionary process at the root of those "childish comments", especially if they were all made by males. Also, I generally think of the deeply religious as having the least sense of humor; perhaps not...


@ ewaldrep (#16):
"pherOmones"
Steve

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 18:53:44 UTC | #937287

RichardofYork's Avatar Comment 18 by RichardofYork

I wouldnt trust anyone who didnt make a joke out of that title

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 18:57:24 UTC | #937288

littletrotsky13's Avatar Comment 19 by littletrotsky13

"One: birds join their neighbours because they think: 'My nest could be next.' "Or they join because their neighbours have joined their mobs before, and they know that if they don't reciprocate, they'll be left alone next time. It's sort of great tit tit-for-tat."

I'm inclined to agree with explanation two, if only because I tend to favour game theory-based explanations. Naturally on the genetic subliminal level rather than the direct: those who don't join in and don't get joined in with die out more quickly, due to risks of decreased net protection outweighing the benefits of decreased personnal risks (fending off predators less often).

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 19:07:14 UTC | #937296

Geoff 21's Avatar Comment 20 by Geoff 21

Next question. Does Parus major show this cooperation only when food supplies are common?

I never expected to get a laugh from the grim moderator! Just the right tone of exasperation, that told it all...

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 19:34:56 UTC | #937309

foundationist's Avatar Comment 21 by foundationist

Comment 11 by Anvil :

I see this all the time from my office window - how lucky am I!.

Watching the interactions of birds, both resident and migratory is taking up more and more of my working day. One only hopes I win the lottery soon as something has to pay for me turning into a twitcher.

Yeah, I know how you feel. Only yesterday I spent a good fifteen minutes watching two magpies ganging up against a crow they were trying to chase away from their tree. Then a second crow landed on the tree and although it didn´t show any signs of joining in, the magpies immediately ceased to attack and fled after the first crow made a minor move in their direction. A trivial observation, but still full of drama and interest when it´s right in front of you.

The most scenic air-battle I witnessed up to now was a group of crows ganging up on an eagle who was circling over the Yasaka Shrine in Kyoto at dusk.

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 20:53:44 UTC | #937328

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 22 by Alan4discussion

Comment 16 by ewaldrep

If I'm not mistaken, there is evidence for the release of oxytocin in response to phermone stimulation. I wonder if anybody has investigated neurobiological substrates of the long term neighboring great tits?

I would think they live and fly too far apart for any hormonal effects to be communicated, unless they are from the same nest, or gathering at a food source.

Birds and other wild animals take a great deal of notice of alarm calls from their own and other species.

Many eyes cover a much greater surveillance area.

That is why clumsy, noisy humans can walk through wild woodland and see very little, but hear the chorus of alarms. Even quiet humans will be avoided by much of the wild-life.

A walk looking at tracks in recent snow, can tell you how much you are NOT seeing!

Birds like Arctic Terns will unhesitatingly and effectively attack large animals such as humans if they approach their nests.

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 22:08:25 UTC | #937348

Anonymous's Avatar Comment 23 by Anonymous

Comment Removed by Moderator

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 23:12:08 UTC | #937364

QuestioningKat's Avatar Comment 24 by QuestioningKat

Comment 18 by RichardofYork :

I wouldnt trust anyone who didn't make a joke out of that title

I read the title and thought that the comments surely would be interesting. It's not reasonable to expect anything serious after that wording. My guess is that for many years this thread will be stumbled upon by porn seekers googling "tits." Just think how it will draw in people who ordinarily would not stop in for a visit.

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 23:54:16 UTC | #937370

Anonymous's Avatar Comment 25 by Anonymous

Comment Removed by Moderator

Thu, 26 Apr 2012 01:54:25 UTC | #937382

SheerReason's Avatar Comment 26 by SheerReason

Comment 24 by QuestioningKat :

Comment 18 by RichardofYork :

I wouldnt trust anyone who didn't make a joke out of that title

I read the title and thought that the comments surely would be interesting. It's not reasonable to expect anything serious after that wording. My guess is that for many years this thread will be stumbled upon by porn seekers googling "tits." Just think how it will draw in people who ordinarily would not stop in for a visit.

That's how I arrived here actually...

Thu, 26 Apr 2012 03:14:59 UTC | #937390

IDLERACER's Avatar Comment 27 by IDLERACER

Just for the hell of it, I typed "Great Tits" into Google's search engine. With the family filter turned on, the first thing that popped up was a link to Wikipedia's page on exotic ornithoids. With the family filter turned off, I had to plow through well over twenty pages before I encountered anything even remotely related to birds.

Thu, 26 Apr 2012 03:25:05 UTC | #937391

chris 116's Avatar Comment 28 by chris 116

WIKI

one German study showed that 40% of nests contained some offspring fathered by parents other than the breeding male.

I know nothing of avian adultery but I'm guessing that a close neighbour would be a more likely adulterer. Could this be a factor in why this behaviour manifests itself only after they've been neighbours for a while?

Of course, this would only explain the neighbouring male's interest. If the female is as often the first to join in the neighbour's defence, then I suppose it must be a case of reciprocal altruism. But if studies showed that it was invariably the male who was first into the fray, then this could simply be him defending possible offspring and his mate backing up her partner.

Thu, 26 Apr 2012 07:33:38 UTC | #937405

Anvil's Avatar Comment 29 by Anvil

Comment 21 by foundationist

(...) The most scenic air-battle I witnessed up to now was a group of crows ganging up on an eagle who was circling over the Yasaka Shrine in Kyoto at dusk.

Wow. I can't match the exotic location, however:

Myself and my partner, Jane (and our two wonderful dogs, Molly the Border Collie and a mongrel Max) have recently moved from a Victorian mid-terraced house - with a yard - situated on the edge of a city centre in the North of England, to a 1930’s semi with a long woodland garden that terraces down to a wooded river-valley or Dene. It is still within walking distance of the city centre, but could easily be a million miles away. It’s beautiful.

Forged by glacial melt, The Dene, as it’s known locally, was once the private garden of a Victorian entrepreneur, industrialist, inventor and arms-dealer. Fortunately - for the locals at any rate - he gifted the valley to the City in 1883.

We love living here. We have an office in the upstairs rear of the house overlooking the valley and every day brings its own ‘Attenborough Moment’- the best of which have involved wild honey bees swarming, garden clearings supervised by a Tawny Owls, and Molly’s Darwinian discovery of a totally new species of amphibian called Frogs.

However, last autumn’s Attenborough Moment really took the biscuit: I’d watched a 45/60 minute battle in the sky above the garden:

Much earlier that morning I’d glimpsed what I thought was the Tawny Owl at the bottom of the garden amongst the trees: a flash of broad brown tail feathers barred with darker spots. I was soon to learn it was one of a pair of large (female?) Sparrowhawks.

They must have been roosting, waiting for better light maybe, or possibly more activity from the smaller birds? They hunt Songbirds and, apparently, according to the RSPB, have been known to take Collared Doves on the wing.

From the office window, I saw them both take to the air around 11.30am, followed instantly by lots of noise from the Tit/Blackbird/Finch population. They circled at about half the height again of our neighbours rather grand Copper Beech (approx’ 35m). Almost instantly the two Hawks were buzzed by a rather fat Wood Pigeon. One of the Hawks peeled off and chased the Wood Pigeon down through the tree canopy at high speed leaving the remaining circling Hawk, would you believe it, to be attacked by the two resident Rooks.

All the while, from the Tits, a constant screaming, dancing, cacophony.

The Rooks, amazingly, took it in turn to flail at the circling Hawk, then stall and drop, not allowing it to sustain any meaningful aggression to either. It was then that I noticed the Copper Beech was starting to accumulate some very agitated Magpies. First one, then two, then three... all of them screeching madly.

Looking up as the second Hawk returned, the Rooks dropped off, and then, out of the blue, the Pigeon! Alive! Hurrah!

Again it took one of the Hawks into the tree line, and again the Rooks returned to agitate the other!

The noise seemed to get louder, larger, and my attention was drawn back to the Copper Beech where gold, bronze, and green were being replaced at quite an amazing rate with the startling white and iridescent blue/black uniform of these screaming, crazed, Geordie birds.

The stronger branches, already taken, forced newcomers to grasp onto far less substantial outlying twigs which, in the autumnal wind, gave the impression that the tree was waving Magpies!

Once their numbers had increased to about twelve, thirteen, fourteen or more, the Magpies, as one, took to the air, and the Rooks and the solitary fat Wood Pigeon immediately left the scene - their job, seemingly, complete.

What followed was simply stunning. A cloud of Magpies surrounded the Hawks. Harrying them. Battering them with their wings. Every now and again a brave individual would attack a Hawk full on: claws and talons locked, Magpie and Hawk would fall, spinning, through the air, twisting and turning like ice skaters – but without the ice – Air Skaters! Then they’d separate – Magpie, wings held back, screaming vertically towards the earth followed inches away by a Hawk!

The battle raged. On and on, through trees and gardens, out into the Dene, and back again. Every time the cloud dove into a garden I presumed a Magpie killed. It was hard to count the casualties, if any, as the action was so fast, but eventually the Hawks, visibly tired, flew off towards the north.

The Magpies returned to the Copper Beech and spent a good ten minutes crowing about their victory.

Atop the Beech a lone, rather fat, Wood Pigeon. I’d swear he looked proud.

We love living here! What a wonderful planet.

Anvil.

Ps:

QUESTION: What exactly was I seeing here? For all the world this looked like both inter and intra species altruism/co-operation. Was I seeing patterns that weren’t really there to see? A coincidence? Mere timing? A human desire to anthropomorphise?

Thu, 26 Apr 2012 08:13:18 UTC | #937411

Anvil's Avatar Comment 30 by Anvil

Sorry, Just re-read it. Apologies for the long post.

Anvil.

Thu, 26 Apr 2012 08:39:39 UTC | #937417