Mockingbirds Recognize Individual People

A Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) taking shelter from the rain in a Weeping Holly tree in North Carolina.  Photo credit:  Ken Thomas/Wikipedia

A Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) taking shelter from the rain in a Weeping Holly tree in North Carolina. Photo credit: Ken Thomas/Wikipedia

Recent research by Doug Levey & his colleagues finds that mockingbirds are able to recognize humans who are threats to their nests from among hundreds of other people.  Volunteers for the study would approach nests on the University of Florida campus at different times of day, from different directions, & wearing different clothes.  The mockingbirds responded to the volunteers’ visits with increasing agitation.  At first the mockingbirds engaged in alarm calls, but the behavior escalated to dive-bombing volunteers & responding earlier, picking out the volunteer when s/he was still approaching the nest.  New volunteers were greeted with the initial alarm behavior.  For more information on this study, see Discover Magazine.

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