But now I’ve learned that there is a lot of research (mostly on ground-squirrels and lizards) supporting the idea that many displays like tail pumping are “pursuit-deterrent” signals. One action you might notice your bird doing involves him lifting up one leg and wing, then putting it down and doing the same with the other leg and wing. Quick twitch. Pity the poor gnats, midges, leafhoppers, moths, and other flying insects that can see well. Other people suggest the … That study looked at the use of these displays in the absence of predators, and suggests that it can be valuable to the potential prey to signal vigilance even when they don’t know of a predator. The tip twitch. Not burning nervous energy. As it turns out, it can be mean a lot of things. There is no clearly definitive reason as to why wagtails perform their namesake but it is almost certainly be an evolutionary adapted behaviour for social signalling and improved feeding efficiency. You and your bird truly have a special bond. We have no idea what they’re doing when we’re not watching and our presence may trigger the behaviors. Do we know if the lizard or bird can both control the degree of fragility of the tail? A bird that is fanning his tail is upset and angry, and this behavior is a prime indicator that a bite will almost certainly follow if you continue the activity that caused the fanning. If your bird is flipping his wings, it often means he is upset by something. It is all just different ways of sending the same message. Tail Pumping by the Black Phoebe. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Your bird may move his wings to stretch or get exercise, but he also may be telling you something. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that these birds may APPEAR to be doing these repetitive motions all the time when in fact they aren’t. One interesting idea that was brought up was the difference in the tail pumping habits of eastern and western Nashville Warblers. we must also consider humans as a potential predator or variable– I WOULD THINK A PROJECT LOOKING AT PEOPLE VARRIABLES SUCH AS GENDER, COLOR OF human presentation- clothes color, hats etc ,and activity level would be obvious things to look at- we all know we sush each other not to scare birds away Jeff kline. I need this information for a children’s book I am writing. I’m actually a little skeptical of that difference, but if it’s real it would make a very interesting test subject for this question. Hi Bryce, I found your post when I googled to do a little more research this morning. I have seen such a one flying and landing on a branch , using a dip technique to slow down before landing. When we get nervous we fidget, when phoebes get nervous they wag their tails, and when a predator sees fidgeting or tail-wagging it gets the message that this is a healthy and alert animal and probably not worth chasing. If they see something dangerous or suspicious, they wag their tails to alert other squirrels. Why can’t it be like a nervous twitch, an inherited trait that serves no practical purpose and is triggered randomly? No no you’re all wrong ! Have there been any studies investigating this aspect of tail-wagging? Thanks for your comment. One of the most common theories has to do with feeding. I like Dan’s comment. Copyright © 2020 The Hartz Mountain Corporation. Wing flapping generally means a bird is either seeking attention or displaying happiness. Hooded Warbler in Blue Hole National Park, Belize, Wikimedia Commons. Lizards wag them too when they feel stalked, I suppose. Pet birds are known for being very intelligent, emotional, and communicative creatures. A recent paper on ground-squirrels is Putman and Clark 2014 (pdf here). Tail flipping and wagging generally signal happiness, while tail fanning is a sign of aggression. Many hypotheses have been suggested to explain why the birds do it, but nobody came up with an answer until Gregory Avellis in 2011. I don’t know, it’s just a habit”. Avellis, G. F. 2011. Would you like to join the Hartz Pet Partners research community? I’m happy to see we are thinking in similar ways! … Unlike other insects that do not fly and whose visual capabilities are not well developed, flying bugs are hard-wired to jump when they … Lots of birds have a habit of pumping (or wagging) their tails. The tail wagging would then be a signal to predators that they’ve not only been noticed by the bird, but the bird is more than ready to give the predator the high-speed, rapid-swerve chase of … It’s mostly open-country birds like phoebes, wagtails and pipits, Palm Warbler, Spotted Sandpiper, and others. If we know the birds are there, chances are pretty good they also know we’re there and see us as potential predators. If we could ask a phoebe why it wags its tail all the time I suspect the answer would be “Do I? Phoebes and a few other species of birds wag their tails, others flick their tails up, others flick their wings, others bob their heads, call, etc. It is thought the birds pump their tails in an effort to startle insects out of hiding. Are you concerned about the effect of playback on birds, given that so many people are carrying digital field guides with audio? Learn how your comment data is processed. Finally the cats tail serpentine movenment may serve second function to scare off some animals…. Understanding Your Pet Guinea Pig: A Guide to Behavioral Patterns, How to Introduce New Fish into Your Aquarium Tank, Things to Consider Before Starting a Koi Fish Pond. Many of the species that exhibit this behavior use hunting strategies where they make sudden, sharp turns in midair, and my thought was that the behavior kept the tail muscles stretched and at the optimal operating temperature. The American Kestrel flicks his tail downwards as he enjoys dining on his prey. Presumably, this burns off nervous energy away from the view of the potential prey. ..I’m back… ….furthermore look at the number of reptiles from which our birdies are descendants that have fragile easily detachable tails. Thanks for your time bird folks! Do Chipping Sparrows flick their tails up and down? I’m not sure this actually answers the question, though. Alarm situations like this are one of the main reasons squirrels flick or twitch their tail, but tails certainly do a lot more than just communicate danger. The Wilson Journal of Ornithology 123: 766-771. abstract. Other clues in body language can help you pinpoint the cause. And the bobbing behaviors of species such as Spotted Sandpiper, American Dipper, etc. It is very important to understand their moods and behaviors so that you can have a better relationship with a healthier bird. Thank you! Like when we talk, sometimes we incorporate the use of body language. Your bird may just be preening, cold, or relaxing. Though you may associate an expressive tail with dogs, pet birds also say a lot with their tails. Thanks. You may wonder what your bird is saying when he ruffles his feathers. I need this information for a children’s book I am writing. My pet Java sparrows wag their tails left-right from time to time, and I don’t think they feel in danger from predators inside our house. Tail Wagging I hadn’t thought about the tail motions difference between subspecies of Nashville Warbler. I’ve noticed their tail pumping to also be just a consequential bodily reaction to their cheeping. I’ve used this behavior to distinguish Phoebes and Peewees. Your bird may move his wings to stretch or get exercise, but he also may be telling you something.