Rumble at the feeder (and lagniappe)

Professor Ceiling Cat is more disposed now. Reader “P” sent this photo (and a link to its source on Facebook) with this comment:

This is doing the rounds: obviously one in a European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) , the other, I think, a Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus ) …

I doubt that it has been photoshopped – robins are violent territorial birds ( despite mistaking  gardeners  for wild boar foraging for food – that is probably the reason why, at least in the UK, they are pretty tame – I have had one perch on my hand) and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it mugged the Blue Tit …


As a bird lover but not a bird expert, I expect readers to weigh on on the ID, the possibility of photoshopping, and whether this encounter seems realistic.

On a more peaceful note, here’s “Sunset with swans” by reader Stephen Barnard (click to enlarge):



  1. gbjames
    Posted February 3, 2014 at 10:27 am | Permalink


  2. Robert Seidel
    Posted February 3, 2014 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    The ID is correct – I can’t comment on the other two points, though.

  3. Diana MacPherson
    Posted February 3, 2014 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    That bird rumble looks hilarious. I can imagine it’s real as birds can be real jerks to each other. It always amuses me that doves are considered peaceful because they are the biggest bullies at the feeder. Even the chipmunks are startled by them (the smarter chippies know not to take their crap).

  4. Stephen Barnard
    Posted February 3, 2014 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    Nice bird action shot. I have Goldfinches, House Finches, Chickadees, and Eurasian Collared Doves at my feeders and they’re always fighting. The biggest bullies are the Red-wing Blackbirds, but they haven’t shown up in numbers yet.

    • Posted February 3, 2014 at 11:09 am | Permalink

      I’ve also witnessed many a bird rumble, with the feathered critters vying for the best spot at the feeder or on the ground.

      I look forward to the red-winged blackbirds, as it usually means Spring is arriving soon!

    • eric
      Posted February 3, 2014 at 11:35 am | Permalink

      Around our area it’s the jays that are the bullies.
      Don’t know if the shot is legit or not but from my very minor and amateur viewing of birds out our windows, it could easily be legit.

  5. Posted February 3, 2014 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    Wow, nice lagniappe! And congrats on being the only person I’ve ever (oop, not-actually-) met who used that word. I used it post-studying-vocab-for-the-GRE and a linguistics PhD student didn’t believe it was a real word (he had a 5 star vocab). According to my sister (who knew him) I earned 10,000 points that day when he saw that it was, indeed, in the dictionary.

    High five!

    (Re: alleged rumble… as a biologist, I have no doubt non-human animals are FREQUENTLY more serious than humans perceive them to be. Nature & survival is NO JOKE.)

    • bacopa
      Posted February 3, 2014 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

      On the Gulf Coast between Houston and Mobile you will occasionally hear “lagniappe”. The word is believed to have moved from Quechua to Spanish, and from there into Cajun French and Louisiana Creole.

      I’ve only ever heard it used in restaurants in the Houston area, where it’s occasionally used as a synonym for “comp”.

  6. Posted February 3, 2014 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    Identities correct! As P says they are aggressive fellows, but the sexes are indistinguishable to humans. That is itself interesting – why no sex difference in plumage in some passerines?

    • Posted February 3, 2014 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

      There is some information on the robin’s red breast here:

      • Posted February 4, 2014 at 2:10 am | Permalink

        Many thanks! I will comsume that later. A bit like sticklebacks… (red)

    • John Harshman
      Posted February 3, 2014 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

      why no sex difference in plumage in some passerines?

      There are several possible explanations. If both sexes are colorful, that suggests there is sexual selection affecting both sexes If both sexes are drab, that suggests avoidance of predation as selective agent affecting both sexes. And of course some birds have major differences you can’t see; that blue tit, for example, would have been easy to identify to sex if only you could see ultraviolet.

      • Posted February 4, 2014 at 2:08 am | Permalink

        Ah! I had forgotten the UV! Thanks…

  7. Charles E. Jones
    Posted February 3, 2014 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    The ruby-throated hummingbirds are the “biggest” brutes at our feeders in Pennsylvania. The males go out of their way to be relentlessly aggressive with each other and even with females (or juvenile males?).

    • Thanny
      Posted February 3, 2014 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

      Same here in NW NJ. Often a male will sit on a branch near the feeder, just waiting to swoop in on any other hummers that stop by.

      Of course, even the females chase other females away. Sometimes, on a four-flowered cylinder feeder, there will be one sitting at a flower sipping, and another flies in on the opposite flower. As soon as one spots the other, the battle begins.

  8. Posted February 3, 2014 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    Both shots look great, and I don’t see any obvious signs of deceptive post-processing.


  9. Posted February 3, 2014 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    Raptor strike!

  10. Bill Gilliland
    Posted February 3, 2014 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    Falcon… PUNCH!

  11. Vinovian
    Posted February 3, 2014 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    As the commenter says robins are violent territorial birds and in our garden they rule the roost. Dunnocks, sparrows and even blackbirds are all attacked when they stray too close.

    They are incredibly tame at times, venturing into the house in search of food. If you are sat in the garden relaxing they will pester you until you eventually feed them. I was once cleaning my daughters bicycle when I had to stop as a robin was bathing in the bowl that I was using. One landed on the back of our pet rabbit as she was eating grass.

    Lovely little birds.

  12. Matthew Jenkins
    Posted February 3, 2014 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    Back in the early 80’s I remember an adult friend rocking with laughter over an article in ‘Amateur Photographer’, which presented the worst faked nature photographs they’d ever received for competitions. It would be nice to track that one down…

  13. Posted February 3, 2014 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    They are indeed a Robin and a Blue Tit, and I don’t think this photo was Photoshopped.

  14. Posted February 3, 2014 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    Oh, and beautiful sunset photo. 🙂

  15. Eddie Janssen
    Posted February 3, 2014 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    I remembered this you tube video:

    Little birds are quiet agressive every now and then.

    • MP
      Posted February 3, 2014 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

      I’m in total shock over this video. I had no idea small birds eat each other. It’s one way to reduce competition at the feeder.

      Both the posted pictures are great. I didn’t know robins have orange feathers on the underside of their wings.

    • Posted February 3, 2014 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

      Even with this great photo-op, I wouldn’t have been able to let it continue. Weird, I know, since it happens all the time in nature….. Hawks taking on pigeons and all that, and I just have to accept it.

    • Achrachno
      Posted February 3, 2014 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

      I doubt the victim is a house sparrow. I don’t know what it is, but house sparrow does not seem right.

      Coloring, movement, body shape and deeply notched tail all seem wrong. I’m guessing it’s closer to a siskin, or something like that. Maybe one of our European contributors will know?

      • Achrachno
        Posted February 3, 2014 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

        I found my old book on European birds and decided the victim is a redpoll. Just in case anyone cares.

        • John Scanlon, FCD
          Posted February 6, 2014 at 6:56 am | Permalink

          Tasted like chicken.

    • Stephen Barnard
      Posted February 3, 2014 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

      I couldn’t watch this after 30 seconds in — sentimental, I guess, and thinking that instead of filming it I should break it up. We think of songbirds as delicate flowers, but they’re the direct descendants of carnivorous theropods, and act out quarrelsome brutality at their scale. The cool, never changing regard of the raptors I photograph sometimes gives me the creeps. If the size tables were turned I’d be carried to a perch and torn apart alive.

  16. Eddie Janssen
    Posted February 3, 2014 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    Oops, that was not supposed to happen.

    • bonetired
      Posted February 3, 2014 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

      Maybe not but still fascinating. I never knew that Great Tits were hunters on that scale. I knew that they would eat insects but taking on a sparrow?

      Googling (using the Latin name Parus major for obvious reasons!) indicates that they will take out small bats as well.

  17. Posted February 3, 2014 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    Stunning shots!

  18. Taskin
    Posted February 3, 2014 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    Wow, just when you think Stephen can’t possibly take a more gorgeous landscape photo, he gives us this! Spectacular!

  19. JBlilie
    Posted February 3, 2014 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    Both and wonderful shots, thanks for sharing them!

  20. Jim Thomerson
    Posted February 3, 2014 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    Om Spanish it is la napa, same something extra meaning. I’ve seen it written with, and without, a tilde over the n. I think with tilde would sound better.

  21. MKray
    Posted February 4, 2014 at 2:33 am | Permalink

    Blue tits are the most common bird in our garden. They feed from feeders, whereas robins mostly feed on the ground… at least until recently when robins started trying to use feeders. At our feeder, the great tits have precedence over the blue titst and coal tits.
    The most aggressive bird, of late, is the jackdaw.
    52.04 deg N, 0.76 deg W.

  22. HaggisForBrains
    Posted February 4, 2014 at 3:21 am | Permalink


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