Coun­try Mouse

Time for turf wars

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country -

FOR birds, ro­mance is now dead. The robins in the gar­den are no longer singing for a mate, but rather to guard a ter­ri­tory and they will kill each other to de­fend it. At night, the tawny owls stake out ter­ri­to­ries with screeches and softer bur­bles, of­ten com­pet­ing with par­ents or close rel­a­tives for the same ter­ri­tory. The in­di­vid­ual fam­i­lies of swallows are flock­ing to­gether in vast roosts, of­ten of more than 1,000 birds, prior to their mi­gra­tion to Africa. From the east, great skeins of geese are head­ing our way to winter in our tem­per­ate cli­mate. For birds, it’s now all about be­ing in the right place at the right time.

Many more birds mi­grate than is gen­er­ally re­alised and about half the species in Bri­tain mi­grate to some ex­tent. For in­stance, the black­bird in your gar­den at Christ­mas may have ar­rived from East­ern Europe. Oth­ers, such as sky­larks, are alti­tu­di­nal mi­grants, mov­ing from up­land ar­eas in the summer to lower ar­eas in winter. Waxwings only mi­grate to Bri­tain when their food has run out in Scan­di­navia. Most of the time, they don’t come at all. Only a mi­nor­ity, such as the cor­pu­lent grey par­tridge and the scowl­ing tawny owl, hardly move at all and are known seden­tary birds. MH

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