Behavior is an interesting subject – whether human, dog or bird. We can attempt to evaluate why an individual behaves in a certain way, but sometimes it’s just a moot endeavor.

It’s fairly common that one of my clients will observe her dog present an unusual behavior and then turn my way with a look of surprise. It’s frequently followed by the exclamation, “Why did he just do that?”

My typical response is;

“I don’t know. I suppose if I could speak directly to dogs I wouldn’t be here right now. I’d be on my own private island in the Caribbean with its private heliport, beautiful, sea-side, airy mansion, private chef and a nice looking pool boy!” Such would be the value of being able to genuinely communicate with animals that share our world.

Of course as someone who has studied and co-habitated with dogs for over three decades, I do have a good idea why a dog may present a specific behavior. But, there are those times when a dog is like my husband – it simply does something I struggle to understand! Love you, honey!

When it comes to comprehending the unique behaviors of wild animals, things get even more challenging. Sure, there are experts whose life mission is to perform extensive behavioral research on one or a group of species. Those folks are going to have a far superior idea of what makes their species of study “tick” or react better than those of us with untrained eyes. But, even they encounter behavior that they find challenging to understand.

Like my dog training students who are befuddled often more than they are insightful regarding their companion dogs’ comportment, those of us who merely step into Nature as unrefined observers can be perplexed about what we see. Here is a recent example of that condition that I observed this past week.

Ruthless Robin

A seemingly agitated bird flew towards the low hanging branches of a massive Maple tree. It was accompanied by another bird, likely of the same type. Upon arrival, number-two bird grasped onto a nearby branch, slightly higher than the one occupied by the first. Unfortunately, this was late in the afternoon, in the heavy shadow of a stately Oak tree that stands just west of the Maple. The back-lighting wasn’t only challenging for my camera to handle, but it made it difficult for me to discern what species I was observing. It seemed to have a very long, sharp beak, and I could tell it had an orange hue. My initial guess was Oriole. We have both Baltimore and Orchard Orioles, but I didn’t have the data to determine which species it might be.

The frantic bird flapped its wings with what I sensed to be fury or exacerbation. Yes, let me assign human emotions to wild animals. One day, everyone will know that animals experience such sentiments. Until then, I will accept that many (even or perhaps mostly in the realm of “science”) are not yet ready to accept that concept. And so, I simply ask you to bear with me, if you re one of that opinion.

Next, the yet-to-be identified bird flew upwards to what appeared to be the sort of nest that an Oriole would create – a hanging basket intricately woven of grass. The orange hue and the curious stringy “nest” supported my initial guess. I made an initial assumption that this was an Oriole building its nest. I was very excited as I had never seen such a thing.

Be that as it may, things changed. The bird’s behavior looked far less that of a future mother creating a proper resting place for her fragile eggs, and one more of an enemy that was destroying such a structure. As it flapped about, I tried to identify the bird with better clarity. It was a Robin. I became fairly certain after the light illuminated the white eye ring of that common species.

I apologize for the quality of these images. If I hadn’t lightened them, you would see only the silhouette. Let me share, to the best of these images and the timing of the shots, what I observed.

The next photos are the best I have of the “nest” material that the Robin was shredding – for lack of a better term.

Why was the Robin behaving that way? That’s hard to say. But, I can speculate – from my “not an expect” position of lack-of-authority.

One, perhaps the grassy structure was a nest of another species – one that the Robin considered a threat in some way. Removing the nest would discourage the competing birds to remain in the area and possibly deplete resources that the Robin coveted or required for survival. Two, the Robin was harvesting materials it found valuable for its own nest. Robin nests are typically constructed of mud which is then lined with grass and other plant materials. Perhaps, the material it was tearing away was, somehow better than the myriad of grass and plant materials we have on our massive (from a Robin’s point of view) expanse of grass and plants, some of which are pre-processed by a mower blade for easy utilization in a Robin’s nest.

Like my dog training students who probably are not happy with my response of “can’t say for sure” when they ask about their dog’s behavior, I suppose that may be the same reply I would get, even from the most studied students of the common Robin. However, I am floating it out to the world in order to, perhaps, receive another educated guess about this curious behavior that I witnessed.

Oh, and then the Robin flew away. The End.

3 Comments on “Strange

  1. Birds often steal nesting material. It is well documented

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