Song Sparrows Behave in A Certain Way

If you have a bird feeder, maybe you've already discovered that each bird species behaves in a certain way. Jays, you might have noticed, are loud and aggressive, while Mourning Doves tend to be quiet and withdrawing. All higher animals display behavioral patterns that may strike us as constituting "personalities" -- though it's anthropomorphic to think of it that way. Animals behave as they do because that behavior is adaptive for their particular ecological niche.

In wild areas, Song Sparrows often behave very secretively. If they are perched atop a blackberry bramble, when they see you coming they'll work downward into the bush, hopping from twig to twig, until they disappear into the shadows. Avoiding giving away their positions, they often skulk through tall grass instead of flying.

On the other hand, when Song Sparrows live in our backyards they often become fairly tame. One birder even tells of teaching his neighborhood Song Sparrow to come for food when a bell was rung. Another Song Sparrow learned to peck at a window when it wanted to be fed. On the other hand, even "semi- domesticated" Song Sparrows sometimes prove that they're tough little birds. Sometimes hoards of House Sparrows practically take over a feeder. Single Song Sparrows have been seen aggressively driving away as many as five House Sparrows.

This flexibility in behavior is not something distributed evenly throughout the animal kingdom. In general, the more highly evolved the animal, the more flexible its behavior. Insects are practically little machines. Song Sparrows have a little flexibility, and wild animals as sophisticated as coyotes or chimpanzees enjoy an even greater range of potential "behavioral strategies." Of course, the animal that is most flexible, is humankind...

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