1 Jun 2017

Threats and Attacks of Birds

Oriental Cuckoo & Brown-eared Bulbul © HIH Princess Takamado
Oriental Cuckoo & Brown-eared Bulbul © HIH Princess Takamado
By HIH Princess Takamado

'Through the Lens', Fujingaho Magazine, June 2017

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Photos and text: Her Imperial Highness Princess Takamado

English Translation: Asia Club, WBSJ Volunteer Group (YOKOYAMA Kazuko and KASE Tomoko)

As we all know, most birds can fly.  So they instinctively fly away from where they are the moment they sense anything unusual that might threaten their lives.  However, things are different during breeding and chick-raising seasons, when more than two males vigorously fight against each other for one female.   Fierce battles are also fought to defend their territories and nests.   Then parent birds threat and attack predators not to allow them to come near to the eggs and chicks.   Usually, these seasons must be stressful to birds, while quite interesting ones for photographers to take photos of birds’ busy activities.   I literally “fly around” with my camera and telescopic lens, as far as times allows.  This time I have chosen photos taken on such occasions, under the theme of threats and attacks.

Common Moorhen © HIH Princess Takamado


The first photo I took in Hokkaido is of an Oriental Cuckoo and a Brown-eared Bulbul.   The Brown-eared Bulbul in the upper right is now being fought back by the Oriental Cuckoo against the furious threat it has given.   Like other species of cuckoo family, the Oriental Cuckoo is a brood parasite.  It never builds its own nests, and lays eggs in those of other birds, mainly of the Eastern Crowned Leaf Warbler and Japanese Bush Warbler, relying on such temporary parent birds to raise its young.   As the brooded birds themselves want to reproduce their offspring, they become more and more alert year by year, so if the Oriental Cuckoo continues to use the nest of the same host, reproduction success rate would decrease gradually.   Considering that the Brown-eared Bulbul was threatening the Oriental Cuckoo so vigorously, it is pretty likely that the latter must have laid the eggs in the Bulbul’s nest as well.

The second shot was obtained in Shimane Prefecture.   As the water birds were unusually noisy, I carefully observed and noticed this pair of menacing-looking Common Moorhens.   It seemed that a snake had eaten up all their eggs.   I had my heart bleed, watching the parents desperately threatening the snake even in such a hopeless situation, until the full-bellied invader swam away.

The last photo I took in Sweden shows the Black-headed Gulls performing the saying “Offense is the best defense”.   The brown bird in the center is a bird of prey, called the Western Marsh Harrier.   It is targeting the chicks and eggs of the gulls breeding in reedbeds.   This individual ended up by getting an egg, but most Western Marsh Harriers and White-tailed Eagles I witnessed that day could not bear the fierce attack by the Black-headed Gulls and flew off.   Both sides were fighting do-or-die and it was quite a scene.

Threat is not an actual attack but an action to threaten the object by showing an expression or atmosphere like an attack.   In most cases it is a behavior to demonstrate one’s strength to protect itself, yet it often leads to an actual attack.

Observing the “threats and attacks” of birds for procreation through their instinctive behaviors and adaptabilities is really heart-moving.  Strongly feeling like cheering up parents, I often watch the chicks praying for their safety.  Also I sometimes reflect on my past days wondering if I raised my children with such a firm intention as birds’.