Friday, 6 August 2010

Wing Slapping

I have become somewhat of an expert on pigeon behaviour over the last couple of weeks. It is from observing ‘my’ baby pigeons all tucked up in their drainpipe on the other side of the road.

My first set of twins have now become quite large and very active – I sit on the edge of pin watching them sometimes as I am so nervous that they will fall out of their nest and to the ground below as I do not think they can fly yet.

The other set of siblings are a bit further along from the first two – and I have not been able to observe them quite as well. But I did amazingly see them holding their own in a dispute in the very earliest days of their lives. The mother to the first two had edged her way along the pipe and was trying to steal something, probably food or grass from the two wee babies (their own mother was obviously off foraging somewhere). Well such a noise and commotion they created everytime her beak went near to them. ‘Peeep, peeeep, peeeep!’ over and over again and their little heads were bopping and beaking all over the shop! So much so that with her feathers a bit ruffled First Mum hopped up onto the ledge above the pipe and observed them somewhat coolly from her lofty perch, but made no further assault on the two young ‘uns.

On another occasion I saw the first mum again trying to bully her way into her rival’s home. This time the dispute was with mum number two – who has by the way a rather beautiful dusky pink colouring along her flank, in fact I think that one of her babies is going to take after her in that colouring – They were obviously feeling fractious on this given day and were ‘fighting’ each other up and down the pipe, stepping over debris and chicks alike as they edged up to eachother and started their wing slapping.

Wing slapping is behaviour I am observing more and more. I used to hear it sometimes lying in bed in the morning and wondering what the heck was going on. It is quite loud. The pigeons get right up close to one another and basically just beat the dickens out of each other with their wings. They sort of snap them really quick and they are probably quite strong too – after all they do use those same wings for flying. So I suppose it must hurt. But it is very loud and very purposeful. Anyway eventually one or the other of the fighting pigeons backs down and peace is restored. So far there have been no casualties or worse still, fatalities.

I have also observed the babies slapping their mum with their wings in the same way and am wondering if it is an instinct which stimulates mum to regurgitate her food for them so that they can feed – as they do, rather disgustingly, stick their heads almost entirely down their mother’s throat to get their own dinner. I can only assume that it is some sort of inducement the same way that suckling calves (or my own wee babies!) sort of head butt their mum’s in the udders to help bring the milk down. Well, my own babies did not head butt me so much as nuzzle seekingly, smelling for the milk and homing in onto the nipple, which in turn brought the milk cascading down of its own accord. Isn’t nature just a wonderful thing!

The photo here is not of my two babies but two adults having a bit of a slap and a bit of a beak too. I think the hot weather makes them a bit irritable at times and the drainpipe is not that big either.


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mary said...

Thank you for that - i am well chuffed that there are people out there who do read my blog - makes it worthwhile to keep on going. so thank you for that.

i will point out, however, that I am no naturalist - only an observer of the world around me and a commentator on that world from my own standpoint and humble knowledge, gathered over a lifetime of observation, eclectic reading and paying some attention in class.


I am glad that you have found something useful though. I like to think that I might be useful to someone someday!