Let’s deal with birds today, it does no harm just this once…
Not so long ago, as I was standing morningly at the balcony, I noticed moving things near my blind spot. Birds. A couple. Eurasian Collared Doves, or Streptopelia decaocto, more precisely (pict below). Well, at least this was solving the mystery of the morning tomato killers (I was just finding my poor plantlets beheaded day after day at that time). We have a lot of this species in town and woods around. As true as Seeds Aside is biased against vertebrates, I’m naturally keen on any kind. I can start meowing or mooing quite easily, so I decided to try cooing as well. I’m not sure I am the best cooing one ever, but amazingly the birds did notice. See below, the (supposedly) female begin to close the eye, on the other hand the male (just right) immediately did not seem very happy and threw a very inquisitive glance (while it seemed scared less than a minute ago). Was I anthropomorphizing a bit too much? Maybe, but what I’ve read may demonstrate otherwise…
First, with regard to this species in particular, songs somewhat evolved their way, and now differ, compared to classical pigeons (which I was trying to put out rather naively, but hey, I have the excuse of not being birding enough -plant matters). Indeed, thrilled vocalization has been lost in the Genus Streptopelia. But it was shown that birds still respond to the signal, in a more or less defensive way (1). (Does it have to do with the fact that this species coexist along with other columbines?)
The thrilling signal, apparently, is not learned, and it’s interesting to note that male react to modified (i.e. unusual) songs more readily than females, but the latter do not exhibit significant behavioral change (2): they’re only (or mostly) attracted by the conventional song of their kind. I find this sex-specific difference attractive though rising intriguing questions: why would male still react to potential competitors that are actually no (sexual) threat? This is also rather unnusual, because male songs generally elicit strong interest in females in most bird species (even if not more if these are unusual songs)… Not the reverse. Birders, tell me if I’m wrong! So it seems we have here a species with a strange ghost of a behaviour past (unless this still existing behaviour has any functional consequence, like dealing with neighbours). Case for an archetypical birdydovean collective unconscious, “a reservoir of the experiences of their species”, Dr Jung? :-)
Maybe I wasn’t that bad a cooer… Maybe there’s something of the Big Grand Archetypical Replicating LUCA-like Psyche™, but I swear I was speaking directly to their dove hearts!
Now have a look at the scene, yep the scene below. Look carefully. You see the collared doves no doubt, but don’t you see anything else, anything special?
No, I’m not thinking about the watering can. If you don’t see, here is a little bit helping:
Another amateur birder… Except that it had the identification wrong since it began meowing. Well, maybe it was right, because apparently, doves really do understand the cat language well. They fled without equivocation. Everybody was then disappointed. My fellow cat, because this hunt was a failure. Me, because the collared doves just left flying downside, though I learned later they are apparently capable of the most striking upward flight, almost without energetic loss (3), and they are probably the most efficient birds getting high that way… We’ll see that next time!
- J. Secondi, P.M. den Hartog, and C. ten Cate (2002). To trill or not to trill? Territorial response to a heterospecific vocal trait in male collared doves, Streptopelia decaocto. Behavioral Ecology 14(5): 694–701.
- J. Secondi, M.A.G. De Bakker, and C. Ten Cate (2002). Female responses to male coos in the collared dove Streptopelia decaocto. Behaviour 139(10): 1287-1302.
- J. R. Usherwood (2008). Collared doves Streptopelia decaocto display with high, near-maximal muscle powers, but at low energetic cost. Journal of Avian Biology 39: 19-23.