If you’ve ever used a slingshot to launch wingless birds at pigs, then you’ve probably played the popular video game Angry Birds. We’re sure that many of our Wonder Friends around the world have spent many hours playing this addictive game.

But do birds really get angry?

We could find no research to support a longstanding animosity between birds and pigs. However, birds can and do get angry, especially if you threaten their nests.

If you get too close to a bird’s nest, you may be seen as a predator. In that case, prepare to come face to face with an angry bird!

Birds will go to great lengths to protect their nests and their young (babies). For example, mockingbirds, despite their small size, have been known to aggressively confront anything they see as a predator, including hawks, cats, dogs and even people.

Other species known to attack predators they believe to be threatening their nests include kingbirds, blue jays and arctic terns. Sometimes these birds can peck so hard that they draw blood! In Australia, magpies are famous for attacking people — called “swooping” — who get too close to their nests.

If you’re ever in a park and see a Canadian goose leading a line of goslings, don’t get too close. If you do, you’re likely to hear a hissing sound as a warning. Continue to approach and you might find yourself being chased away by an angry mother or father goose!

Birds get angry and fight for reasons other than simply protecting their nests. Sometimes birds fight to protect a general territory rather than a specific nest.

When food is scarce, birds become more territorial and won’t hesitate to fight other birds that threaten their food supply. For example, in the spring, you may notice cardinals and robins attacking their reflections in the windows of your house.

These birds see themselves, but they think they see other birds threatening their territory. These attacks on your windows may continue until you take action, so don’t hesitate to tap on the window to urge the birds to move on.

Birds also occasionally fight to prove their dominance over other birds or to win the affection of a potential mate. Male house sparrows, for example, have a reputation for fighting for dominance.

Within flocks of house sparrows, there’s a definite pecking order. Male house sparrows have black “bibs” on their chests. The larger the bib is, the more dominant the bird will be. Birds with similar bibs tend to fight each other.

 

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    • You’re right, Kim! Instincts can sometimes lead animals (even humans!) to take extraordinary measures. When food is scarce, birds and other animals will do whatever they have to in order to feed themselves and their families. Thanks so much for commenting today! :-)

  1. Thanks so much for this Wonder. I learned a little bit about birds and if
    they really do have much of a temper. It was WONDERful.

    • Thank you for visiting us today, Ashlee! It sounds like this Wonder helped your imagination take flight! :) We Wonder if you have a favorite kind of bird, or perhaps you have some birds that live outside your home? :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Do birds really get angry?
  • What is swooping?
  • Why do birds fight?

Wonder Gallery

Try It Out

Want to play Angry Birds? Give the Internet version of Angry Birds a try. But don’t say we didn’t warn you. It can be addictive!

If you prefer to get outside and see some birds up close, do it! Find an area with a lot of birds, then sit back and enjoy the view.

How many birds can you identify? Before you head out, visit WhatBird to learn what birds frequent your area.

 

Still Wondering

Check out National Geographic Xpeditions’ Bird Baths: Cleaning Up Wildlife After Oil Spills lesson to explore the effects on wild birds of events such as oil spills and contaminations.

 

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