Two days after I filmed “the bill duel,” I saw the same two birds interacting. Their relationship seemed to be evolving into a more affiliative, less aggressive one. The tension was gone, there was more an air of excitement.
They were no longer grabbing at each other in between the bill contact. That action was replaced by self grooming. I am no bird psychologist, but to me self-grooming appears to be used sometimes, in a variety of circumstances, to tone things down, to avoid aggressive interactions.
There are also some elements of the more familiar courtship display in this second bill duel. You will notice some sky moos, arm-pit sniffing, and the exaggerated, bobbing walk that usually accompanies a display. Is the bill duel a precursor to the courtship display?
These birds are so much more interesting than most people know. I want to be able to categorize their social interactions, but some of the differences are subtle and difficult to put into words. I do know that it takes frequent observation and plain old curiosity to notice them. Plain old curiosity, by the way, is my biggest motivation to observe them so often, even when I am tired and I would really rather sit at home with a good book. Without a need to know which birds are in Princeville, and what they are up to, I would be more likely to check on them just once in a while. And I would miss the rich details that embellish the complicated texture of their lives.
I decided a long time ago that I am less of a “Oh, let me rhapsodize to you about how beautiful they are!” person and much more of a “Wow, did you see what that bird just did? And did you know that’s his grandma watching him?” type. People should expect to learn something new when they read a blog about a particular animal, otherwise why bother?
The next time you visit the albatrosses, watch any social interactions carefully and see what you notice. It is impossible to get all of the nuances when you are taking still photos, but sometimes if you film them and look at the film carefully later, you will notice things that you did not see when you were watching the birds. The more carefully you study these birds, the more likely you are to see the subtleties, the less obvious behaviors. Before you know it, you will find that you are spending too much time observing them, time that could be better spent doing chores, or pursuing other interests.
Welcome to my club!