Jen Chandler 


You may have heard of ‘boxing hares’, but have you also heard of ‘boisterous buzzards’, or brawling blue tits? Spring signifies the awakening of life from the slumber of winter. It is also the time of year that many animals enter the breeding season. You may have seen changes in how animals are behaving, with some showing signs of aggression.  

 

Back off! 

Do you think male hares are the ones who fight, such as the brown hares in the image below? Surprisingly, fighting usually occurs when the male (buck) is too perseverant with the female (doe). The males chase her around, in order to mate; leading to her fend him off with a swipe or two. Early spring is when tussles are at their highest, because the hares are entering the breeding season, and want to pair up with a female. Next year, keep an eye out for hares in ‘mad march’, and see whether you spot them and their infamous boxing behaviour! 

Boxing hares (Photograph by Trevor Stutter)
Energetic hares – Trevor Stutter 

Faced with competition from their rivals, animals are aggressive when it comes to finding a mate. Males fight in order to determine the dominant animal, and the worthy winner is selected by the female as a mate. 

 

On the lookout 

Buzzards spent a lot of their time perched in high positions such as, in trees, on poles, posts, or pylonsFrom these watch-outs, the buzzard can rest and carry out preening. However, do not be fooled – the buzzard always remains on high alert; both to prey and intruders. They keep a watchful eye out over the hunting ground for any signs of potential prey. If something catches their eye, the high perch allows the buzzard to swoop down and catch its unsuspecting victim.  

Buzzards are now the UKs most common and widespread bird of prey, and fighting is not unheard of between these birds. They are very territorial, and although they may share feeding grounds with other birds, individuals will defend their own hunting perch from others. 

In the image below, captured by Colin Harvey, the buzzard on the right has its wings almost fully extended; showing its wonderful feather patterning. It appears to be a little too close to the buzzard on the left, with its mouth open, it is likely to be making a call to tell its rival to stay well away! The defending buzzard will start with a call and will proceed with a bowing movement, lowering its head.  

Squabbling buzzards (Photograph by Colin Harvey)
Squabbling buzzards – Colin Harvey 

This behaviour acts as a warning towards the other bird and is usually enough to see the intruder away. If this is unsuccessful, and the intruder does not move on, the defending adult takes flight, whilst calling, to make sure the intruder leaves. If this threat still fails to work, then an attack may take place. The defending adult will fly to the same level or higher than the intruder, and circle soar in order to create distance between the two. The defending adult will then swoop towards the intruder and chase it. This usually sees off the intruder.  

 

Belligerent blue tits 

Although blue tits appear cute and innocent because of their small stature, it may be surprising to learn that relative to their size, blue tits are one of the most aggressive birds. They can be incredibly hostile towards other blue tits. 

Hostility is most common during the start of the breeding season, as the competition between males intensifies as they try to find a mate and the best nesting sites, which can lead to fighting. The image below, taken by Trevor, shows two blue tits in mid-fight, with both of their legs entwined with each other as they tussleAggressive behaviour such as pecking at the eyes and head has been recorded, as well as the two birds seemingly unable to be prised apart as they fight. 

Wrestling blue tits (Photograph by Trevor Stutter)
Fighting blue tits – Trevor Stutter 

In winter, when food is harder to come by, blue tits may also engage in fighting in order to eat, and ultimately stay alive. Serious injuries can be seen in blue tits when they fight, and it has also been recorded that a blue tit has killed its rival in a vicious battle over food, territory or a mate. 

When territories, nesting spots and mates have been chosen, the animal kingdom settles into a calmer way of life; with the focus shifting from fighting to nurturing. 

 


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