Itty Bitty Bird Bullies · 19 June 2021

I am always amazed when I see little birds picking on big birds.

I was watching a bald eagle fly over the basketball court near my house one day. It was a day with clear blue skies, and the eagle was riding the thermals. Just soaring. Just minding its own business. The eagle seemed quite a ways up there.

Then, this little bird came into my field of view. It was flapping its wings like crazy. Like it had to get somewhere fast. It was gaining altitude quickly. It was still mostly in my peripheral vision, but then it hit me. That little bird was going to go after the eagle.

If you have never seen little birds pick on big birds, you would be amazed. Certainly surprised. I have seen it happen time and again. The larger bird is minding its own business when all of a sudden one or more itty bitty birds starts to pick on it. The big and little birds go into an aerial ballet of sorts. Weaving and bobbing. Doing all sorts of looping and stalling. It is the air show of all air shows. Something to behold.

Well on the particular day I saw them, these two birds were not really showing off their flying prowess. They were just being a bit standoffish. I only saw one or two loop de loops. And unlike several of the aerial combat shows that I have seen between big and little birds, this particular one was mild and short-lived.

But it got me thinking. (I know. That can be dangerous.) And wondering.

I have always wondered why those aerial combat shows do not end with the itty bitty bird being big bird food. Think about it. All that eagle or hawk or other taloned bird would need to do is reach out those talons and that little itty bitty bird would be snack food for the babies back home. I suppose that the little birds can maneuver better than the larger birds, but I do not know. It seems that every bird can turn on a dime in the air. So I have always wondered why the large predatory birds do not just gobble up the little pests.

That was when I realized. The little birds, the itty bitty birds, the pesky peeper birds are just bullies. We think that they are protecting their young ones from the big bad raptors, but they just want to pick on the larger birds. Those little birds just want to show the other birds that they are tough.

And those large birds, those predatory birds, those taloned birds? They are just the gentle giants minding their own business. Their mammas told them that they are bigger than the other birds so they should just turn the other cheek and not worry about the little birds. Even if they could be a little snack.

I know. It is not a good thing to personify animals. (The technical and literary term is called anthropomorphism. Use it in a conversation sometime. Outside of English class. Anthropomorphism.) After all, animals are most likely not thinking those thoughts. Those taloned birds’ mammas did not really tell them to not pick on the little birds. But it is fun to think of them that way. After all, we all know gentle giants whose mammas did tell them to not pick on the little guy. And we all know little bullies.

I do not know the real reason that eagles and hawks do not just pluck those pesky little birds out of the sky. I do not really know why those itty bitty birds seem to pick on the big bad birds flying so high in the sky. All I know is that it seems to me the outcome ought to be different. Or even the beginning ought to be different.

Then again, maybe the big bad bird soaring in the sky really is eyeing the little bird’s offspring as possible prey. Maybe the little bird really is just trying to protect its young ones. I do not really know. All I know is what I see. And what I see is itty bitty birds picking on big birds with sharp talons. I am always amazed at the sight.

© 2021 Michael T. Miyoshi

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