Sometimes when you see a flock of birds, there are several species together. For instance, birds that commonly group together are red-eyed vireos, chickadees, downy woodpeckers, tufted titmice, brown creepers, white-breasted nuthatches and golden-crowned kinglets. There are a number of possible reasons that they do hang out together.
First, the more birds there are to be on guard against predators, the safer they might be. That's possibly because the enemies might get confused with so many species fleeing at once.
Second, a flock of birds might be composed of species with different abilities. For instance, in South America, the near-sighted red-eyed vireos flock with the farsighted yellow-margined flycatchers in their winter territories. This is a complimentary arrangement enabling them to spot enemies near and far.
The golden crowned kinglet eats spiders, fruit and seeds.
Photo by Dave Cooney Jr.
Other birds that work together are the chickadees and titmice which guard the downy woodpeckers from hawks. By the way, birds aren't the only ones who help each other in groups. In Africa, zebras are equipped with excellent hearing. They will group with wildebeest and giraffes which can see exceptionally well. By staying together, they are all better protected from lions and other predators.
Chickadees are born leaders. The song "Leader of the Pack" that I remember from my childhood reminds me of these feisty birds. Research has discovered that there is a chickadee hierarchy. The lowest level would be a few young birds. Those that have not found a mate often move to a new flock. Successful males which find mates feed the females. It's purely selfishness. They want to improve their own reproductive success. Keeping their females fat and healthy provide more chicks.
The near-sighted red-eyed vireos have two eyebrows. A black one is above a white one. The males have repertoires of about 40 songs. Rarely will they sing any one twice in a row. After attracting a female, they will pull their feathers snug to their bodies. The females respond by puffing up. Then the males rock back and forth and from side to side. Finally, both quiver their wings together. This species is declining in number. Cowbirds are partly responsible for that. The little vireos are one of the major recipients of cowbird eggs.
The upside-down brown creepers are not confused. They go up a tree, fly down, and then go up again. That's their normal pattern in looking for insects and larvae to eat. They also feed on chopped nuts and suet, at folks' feeders. Have any of you seen a Brown Creeper at your nut and suet feeders? Wow. If you have, you are so lucky! Because they blend in so well with bark, I have seen this species only once in my yard. That was on a tree-not at my feeder.
White-breasted nuthatches enjoy the peanuts at my feeder. Without our help, they would eat acorns and other nuts as well as spiders. In winter, they usually roost alone in tree cavities. Although in the wild, you might see these birds on the edges of woods, you would have a much better chance of finding them in deep woods. Human beings are cutting down sections of woods for the lumber industry. The nuthatches are profoundly affected negatively by that activity.
The golden crowned kinglets might also be seen in a mixed flock of birds. These tiny birds (3 " long) can be found in our area all year long, but there are many that winter all the way to Guatemala. In 1980, they were included on the National Audubon Society's Blue List. That list warns us that these birds are losing habitats. They breed in coniferous forests. Many folks are cutting down trees for profit. That's a real problem for birds which depend on forests as their habitats.
Birders should not be hasty in identifying birds flying in flocks. You might be lucky enough to see golden-crowned kinglets in them.