Birds of a feather don’t always flock together: Peer into a forest canopy, and you will likely spot multiple bird species flying and feeding together, a phenomenon most spectacular in the Amazon where 50 species may travel as a unit. But are birds in these mixed flocks cooperating with one another or competing? A new study suggests both.
In an analysis of nearly 100 North Florida flocks, Florida Museum of Natural History researchers found similar bird species were significantly more likely to flock together than hunt alone, working as a group to stay safe from predators while cruising the canopy in search of insects. Species kept competition within the flock low, however, by differentiating their foraging technique, their choice of hunting spot or the general distance they kept from a tree trunk.
“These are very tropical features – not something I expected to see in a subtropical environment like Florida,” said study co-author Scott Robinson, Florida Museum Ordway Eminent Scholar, and Jones’ adviser.Learn more about How Bird Flocks With Multiple Species Behave Like K-Pop Groups.