A Flashing Mockingbird
Outdoor Ontario

A Flashing Mockingbird


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The following two composite images were created from a series of shots that I took of a Northern Mockingbird flashing its wings, second time I observed such behavior.

I was standing in the wide open area in the park when suddenly one of six Mockingbirds flew out of the nearby shrubs, landed on the trail in front of me and started flashing its wings. It did this several times while walking away from me on the trail, eventually it flew away.  The obvious reason that came to mind was that it was probably a foraging behavior and with wing-flash it might be flashing the insects from the ground. However, I didn't see it catching any insect and the angle of its head indicated that it was paying attention to me and not to any ground insect. A Google search found a 1960 research paper where it was suggested that 'wing-flashing is primarily a gesture indicating wariness, suspicion, [and] distrust', more than anything else. I have to believe that this was what was happening here - the bird was anxious of my presence and hoping that flashing its wings will make me go away. Wing-flashing is not for foraging for insect it seems as it is traditionally believed. This could be one of the adults protecting 5 other juveniles. Downsview Park, Toronto.

« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 pm by Guest »


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Birds of mimicry, whether open-ended learners or not, might have the capacity to mimic what
they see as well as what they hear provided it is seen early in life. I have also seen a Mockingbird
display it wings. It happened while I walking the trail at Colonel Danforth Park (me, not the bird)
In this case, the Mockingbird was engaged in a face-off with a squirrel. This act occurred on a stage
provided by the paved pathway. I've also seen a crow do it, and a robin do it. Cue the music ... birds do it, bees do it,
even educated flees ... well, you know the rest. Anyway, it the case of the other birds there
did not appear to be any reason for the dance. Maybe there isn't always a concrete utility, but
just a form of expression. There's a novel concept ... flashing as a form of expression, or even
artistic expression. You see where I'm going with this? If so, could you explain it to me.

I hope this is not giving you any ideas of taking up flashing yourself. Mammals do so many useless,
and insane things too, as if for play and a bird's brain, though small, consists of very compact
complex neurons not the same as ours, or well, yours ... mine are mostly non-vital or perpetually
entrenched in useless and insane patterns of expression. I guess you can tell. Still, you've brought
it our attention and the Mockingbird flashing behaviour has previously been documented, although
perhaps not with such edifying and entertaining visuals. I'm thinking (and it hurts when I do it) that
you might have videography in your future. Imagine that, an excuse to spend more money on gear.
Oh joy!
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 pm by Guest »