Different Strokes for Different Folks

In a bed of brown leaves on the ground around a weedy hedge of bushes, trees and vines, several different songbirds foraged – together, but in different ways.

A pair of colorful Eastern Towhees – the male black, brick-red and white; the female brown, orange-red and white – and half a dozen White-throated Sparrows scratched up the leaves with their feet, hopping on two feet at a time to kick the leaves backward, then pecking at what they might find, maybe seeds, berries, insects, or spiders. A big, brassy Brown Thrasher went at it head first, instead, tossing up leaves and soil with its long curved bill.

While the towhees and thrasher stayed very close to the base of the shrubs, where the leaves and the cover were deepest, the White-throated Sparrows ventured further out into the open, hopping, scratching and pecking at the ground, and also watching each other. Several times one sparrow quickly flitted to take over a spot where another was, as if it thought the grass was greener – or the leaf-mulch richer. So the sparrows looked at times as if they were constantly in shifting motion, trading places, each one never quite satisfied with where it was, and trying somewhere else.

Once the thrasher flew aggressively to the spot where the female towhee was scratching – only two or three feet away – and she temporarily flew out of the way, but she didn’t go far, and returned when the thrasher went back to its spot.

A Northern Mockingbird made several short, agitated flights into the group of ground-feeding birds, lunging at one or two of them, maybe warning them away from its territory, which seemed to be around some more open, manicured shrubs a few yards away. The other birds moved out of its way briefly, but mostly seemed to ignore it.

A tiny Ruby-crowned Kinglet flew into a privet shrub in the thicket, and began to flit over its branches, flicking its wings and feeding by gleaning from the branches and leaves.

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