Normal mating behaviour?
Have you got a question about your local patch or bird identification? Email your question to birdwatching@ bauermedia.co.uk We live on the edge of the woodland in the Forest of Dean. Last week, I was able to observe a pair of Chiffchaffs courting (in a Hazel shrub). I spotted a third lurking about six feet lower down the tree. It was watching the pair very closely, but was unusually still and silent, drawn up against the tree trunk, as if hiding. When the female signalled she was ‘ready’, this third bird flew straight to her, mated, and flew off as quickly as he had arrived. This happened in a split second, before the female or ‘legitimate’ male had realised what was going on. I am not sure the female even knew she had been mated by this gate-crasher. It seems to me this is a clever strategy for unattached male birds. Does it happen often? Lynne Mayers, Gloucestershire
QLetting another male do all the work before swooping in and taking the prize seems to be a fairly common method used by males who may not otherwise be able to win in the competition for a female’s affections. We’ve certainly heard of this behaviour in Dunnocks before now, and similar ‘cheating’ methods of mating have been recorded among such species as Blackbirds and Great Tits.