Re: birding-aus Specificity of aggression

Subject: Re: birding-aus Specificity of aggression
From: Jill Dening <>
Date: Fri, 30 Jul 1999 09:25:24 +1000

>Jill Dening described an aggressive stance taken by a single Noisy
>Friarbird against a group of resident Noisy Miners, but the same bird
>allowed the usual Rainbow Lorikeets, Scaly-breasted Lorikeets and the odd
>King Parrot to feed in the same tree with impunity.
>Which raised in my mind several questions on the specificity of aggression
>and related behaviours.
>I mean, the lorikeets etc are obviously competing for nectar but the Noisy
>Friarbird (NF) reserves its aggression for the Noisy Miners (NM). Clearly
>presence in the tree or nectar-feeding are not the triggers in this
>instance. The NF must recognise the NM as a competing 'species' even in the
>absence of active feeding - so is this a learned or an innate recognition?
>And how far does this recognition go if it is innate?,

I was inclined to think that the friarbird (...upper or lower case?) saw
the lorikeets as dominant to itself in the general order, but that the MNs
were subordinate (learned or innate?). If my thinking is correct, then it
would have been a waste of valuable energy to take on a losing battle,
whereas there was gain to be had from taking on the NMs.

Roy Sonnenburg wrote:
A couple of Noisy Friarbirds were harassing individual
Rainbow Lorikeets and when the R. Lorikeet flew, it would be pursued by a N.
Friarbird.  The Noisy Friarbird would actually grab the R. Lorikeet by the
tail with its bill and stop flying momentarily.

So, does this indicate that the aggression in the case of the Noisy
Friarbird is learned? In my tree the friarbird does not chase the
lorikeets, and yet Roy has seen them engaging in battle.

 which other
>honeyeaters or even non-honeyeaters are perceived as a threat?

The friarbird is also dominating the Little Wattlebirds which visit the
grevilleas. I omitted to mention this earlier.

Digressing slightly, normally at this time of year there would also be
several dozen Scarlet Honeyeaters in the same trees, as well as Brown H/E,
White-throated H/E and Silvereyes. They are all but absent. The continuing
wet weather has resulted in late and poor blossoming of the grevilleas.
They are a northern Australian species, which depend (or so it seems to me)
on a good dry season for good blossoming.


Jill Dening
Sunshine Coast, Qld

26º 51'         152º 56'

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