Well, maybe “spat” is too mild a word for what I witnessed a few days ago when out birding. It was a gloomy, heavily clouded day and my expectations of seeing something unusual were low.
A male meadowlark (Sturnella magna, above) greeted me and his sweet song and subsequent foraging with his partner was a definite bright spot in the field.
His little concert was delightful. But then I thought perhaps he was asking me to go away and leave him and his partner to forage without spectators, so I did get ready to leave.
Before I left the area, however, my eyes were drawn to a spectacle further away.
There were flashes of gray and white erupting up from the ground, into the air and back down again. Before putting up my long-lensed camera (which serves as substitute binoculars for me), I figured the wing patterns were showing Northern mockingbirds (Mimus polyglottos). My first photos confirmed it.
But then I watched with fascination and growing consternation as the two birds tackled one another in what was an actual knock-down, drag-out fight. I’d seen mockingbirds having territorial disputes before, but those spats only lasted a couple minutes and were mostly threat displays. This was a real battle.
I don’t know if they were arguing over a third (female) bird or if it was mostly a territorial dispute. Perhaps it was both.
They ascended, facing off angrily.
They attacked one another mid-air.
And while descending to the ground.
They pummeled one another.
Flying to the ground, one would sit atop the other and seemed to be pecking at it once in a while. After getting off its opponent, the pair faced off again and started the fight anew.
They were at it for at least 5 minutes and perhaps longer as I’d spotted them once the dispute was underway.
As they continued fighting, I wondered if one of them might be hurt or wounded.
Neither one of them appeared to show any wounds (but then I was not really close enough to tell for sure).
At last one of them decided he’d had enough. The other two birds were chasing him, but he got away and flew to a tree. The fight ended and no one seemed to have been irreparably harmed. But it was a real lesson for me in realizing how territorial the mockingbirds can get. I’d seen some short-lived spats before, but now I know more serious fights occur as well. I don’t know if they ever lead to one of the opponents being mortally wounded. Hopefully not!
Next up – a story of my own close call with a hawk!