Tameness in birds

posted in: Miscellaneous | 0

Birders need binoculars to watch birds and photographers use 600 mm lens to take pictures of birds. Why? Because birds fly off when approached. Birds do not trust humans as invariably we cause them harm or deprive them of their freedom.

Many among us have the instinct of trying to catch a nearby bird, even though we may not be poachers. Remember the saying: “A bird in the hand is better than two in the bush”? In many third-world countries birds are actively caught for food or to be sold as cage birds. Is it a wonder then that birds avoid people?

Most people would be familiar with tame pet birds, and I do not mean those pet birds that are caged. Pet parrots, for example, can be trained to be tame, as seen in the bird perched on the head of the girl above.

House Crow (Corvus splendens) and Javan Myna ( Acridotheres javanicus) learn fast that there is food to be had around humans and exploit the situation. They soon learn to forage around people. We can approach them but they are always aware of us and fly off when we approach too near.

MY early experience with tameness was when I tried to photograph a sunbird. It allowed me to move to a metre of its perch without trying to fly off. I found out later that it was an immature Olive-backed Sunbird (Nectarinia jugularis), recently fledged, yet to experience the negative behaviour of the people around them. This is developmental naivety.

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Besides the above examples, there are birds that are truly tame. My experience with ecological naivety was when I visited the Galapagos archipelago. All the birds there are not familiar with predators as they have been living in these isolated islands that have no predators. This type of tameness is a serious threat to them as introduced predators like cats can cause havoc. Threats from humans have long been removed as the islands are now protected. The Blue-footed Booby (Sula nebouxii excisa) shown above is so tame tha you can walk by it while it is incubating its eggs. Only when you come too near will you be scolded. It was the same with the Waved Albatross (Diomedea irrorata) (above).

I am sure there are many other causes of tameness and I welcome comments from viewers.

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