Have you ever looked up at birds perched on a wire and noticed how evenly spaced they are?
Most birds and even animals maintain a minimal distance between one another, better known as their personal space. Even humans have a specific space we try to keep between us and others and if someone gets too close we feel uncomfortable. The exception to this much needed perimeter is displayed by animals that are on good personal terms, mates, offspring, siblings and close friends. It is easy to recognize which birds on a wire are on good terms with the birds beside them, there will be a much smaller space between them than the average spacing of all the birds.
There are different theories around why there is a specific “measured” space for each species. In the case of birds, the size of the bird dictates the needed space between them. The exact spacing between individuals is a result of a number of variables including body size, available space and social interaction. Using body size as an example, starlings on a wire will be much closer to each other than a group of pigeons would be.
The prevailing theory is that it is a self-governing system to prevent conflicts among the birds. If the birds cannot easily reach the bird perched beside them they are not likely to start a fight with them. Having your space violated can make you pretty grumpy. Another theory suggests that the distance between birds is dictated by the “wing space”, the space between birds needed to land from flight and to take off using outspread wings. This spacing prevents wing collisions when landing or taking off. It would also allow for a quick unimpeded take-off should a predator such as a hawk make an appearance.
The next time you see a flock of pigeons on a wire, be sure to take a moment to see how precise the spacing is and notice which ones might be related.
Have you ever noticed the need for personal space in other animals?
By Brad Gates, B.Sc.
Brad Gates is the owner and president of AAA Gates Wildlife Control. He has over 35 years experience in the humane wildlife removal and prevention industry.
AAA Gates' Wildlife Control is a division of AAA Wildlife Control Toronto Inc. AAA Gates' Wildlife Control and its logos are the registered trade marks of AAA Wildlife Control Ltd.
All other trade marks or logos are the property of their respective owners.