Date: 5/14/18 2:50 pm
From: Steve Johnson via VA-bird <va-bird...>
Subject: [VA-bird] bird behavior fun (Waxwings at EC Lawrence Park)

Hello birders,

The breeding guidelines for the Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas, Piedmont region, remind us that Cedar Waxwings are still migrating through, for another month or so. That means we shouldn’t record any breeding codes for them in this area until mid-June, unless we see definite nesting activity. And the size of the flocks I saw today at Ellanor Lawrence Park (Fairfax County) were migration-size, probably 100+ birds in the greater area around the S end of the park.

But I’m still going to report some interesting behavior.

Among the flocks, I saw 2-3 different instances of pairs of Waxwings passing food back and forth. The first pair I saw performed quite a ritual. The pair of birds were perched side by side on a horizontal branch, somewhat below the top of a tree.

First, bird A passes a sizeable insect to bird B. B hops one hop further away from A. Then B hops back and passes the bug back to A.

As you might guess, A then hops a step further away from B. Then A hops back and again passes the insect back to B.

I watched this pair perform this sequence for 17 non-stop cycles (34 exchanges of the same insect, and 68 hops) on the same branch. The ritual ended when a 3rd Waxwing flew in and landed about a meter below the pair. After a short pause, one of the pair of birds dropped the insect, flew down, and chased away the intruder. "Three's a crowd", apparently.

OK so we can’t record this as Courtship yet, for purposes of the Breeding Bird Atlas, because these birds are still migrating. But this definitely looked like a honeymoon to me.

The best non-courting bird today was a Nashville Warbler, one of 7 Warbler species. Here’s the full checklist.

Good birding everyone,
Steve Johnson
Fairfax, Virginia

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