Bird solidarity

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By Susan Howell

Birds, like most creatures on this planet are territorial. Whether it is guarding a nest or securing a food source, on most days small battles between them seem to occur.
Over the years I have taken some time to observe bird behavior and I have noticed that some birds like the Carolina Chickadee and the tufted-titmouse will feed together and follow each other in flight.
My yard also supports a healthy population of Northern Cardinals who dominate the bird feeders and bird baths. Blue Jays are more aggressive they always want to show off their scuffle game and those peaceful Morning Doves, don’t let them fool you for a minute, they are quite capable of sticking up for themselves.
Sometime ago, the battle cry of a small group of Blue Jays caught my attention and led me outdoors to see what the fuss was about. Following their cries I was led to the azalea hedge that borders my yard. As I approached the hedge it appeared that along with the Blue Jays almost every bird that inhabits my yard had joined forces creating one big noisy ruckus. Cardinals, wrens, warblers, titmice, chickadees–you name it hovered and dashed from hedge to tree, chipping and chirping at something I was yet unable to see. Whatever it was had their feathers in a fury and my curiosity aroused.
While my eyes scanned the hedge it appeared that the birds were beginning to quiet down almost as if my presence would somehow run this phantom off. Finally my eyes locked onto the culprit.
Lying upon the azalea hedge was a very large and well camouflaged Yellow Rat Snake. It was quite a specimen and if I were a bird I would be freaking out too!
I ran into the house and of course grabbed my camera and was able to snap a few photos.
By this time the birds began to leave in silent retreat, figuring I guess that somehow I had the situation now under control. The snake meanwhile moved slowly along the hedge seemingly undisturbed by me or my camera.
 As the day progressed and I got to thinking about this backyard drama I came to realize that birds like people will join together in a unified force when an enemy threatens or disaster strikes. Their territories and disputes momentarily forgotten in what I refer to as Bird Solidarity.
FYI: The Yellow Rat Snake also referred to as a chicken snake lives throughout the Florida peninsula. These beneficial non-venomous snakes are excellent climbers and can swim as well. The adult can grow quite large anywhere between 40 to 72 inches. They feed primarily on rodent, but will also dine on lizards, frogs, birds and their eggs.