“Agonistic Behavior” Among Birds: More Than Just Fighting

A useful introduction to the term “agonistic behavior” is found here,” from Wikipedia—”Agonistic behaviour is any social behaviour related to fighting. The term has broader meaning than aggressive behaviour because it inecludes threats, displays, retreats, placation, and conciliation.” My camera and I see it all the time, from our bird bath to clashes in the (relative) wild. I have documented such behavior in my favorite sites in Flagstaff, where I tend to see small birds harassing larger ones. This photo of a coot chasing off a duck—taken at Francis Short Pond near downtown Flagstaff— was probably a mother chasing off and intruding bird despite its superior size. Another photo from the same pond is one of many I took in August 2020 documenting a very common sight— a raven harassing an osprey.

I hope this post launches a series on agonistic behavior—just one example of a theme that dominates all my photography, namely, interaction between two creatures, be it “pleasant” or “unpleasant,” symbiotic or agonistic.

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