They sing gently outside our windows, these soaring symbols of nature's grace. But sometimes birds' behavior is more consistent with a war movie than a Disney film.
A new University of North Carolina study involving cliff swallows examines the birds' reaction times, turning performance and pursuit tendencies during tandem flights - all often taking place during some less-than-social interaction. The study, appearing in the online Journal of Experimental Biology, is the first to track the birds in the field in high resolution.
"We like to think that animals are cooperative and all that, but they'll sometimes behave badly, just like people do on occasion," said Tyson Hedrick, a UNC biologist and a co-author of the study done the summers of 2012 and 2013. "Animals turn out to not always be that sweet and cuddly thing underneath."