Nautilus

Why Birds Love Mobs

When I tell Katie Sieving, an avian wildlife ecologist at the University of Florida, that it’s probably a stretch to call “mobbing” an act of heroism, she laughs. Mobbing, as the term suggests, involves a mob: It’s when a group of animals band together to harass and drive out a common predator—a behavior already well-known to the ancients by the time Aristotle described it in 350 BC, in Historia Animalium. Squirrels, fish, African ungulates, otters, and even insects will mob predators, but birds have developed it to an art form. Sieving calls the small North American songbirds she studies, known as titmice, heroes all the time. “They’re like the

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