• Kátia Boroni



Continuation of: The components of behavior in Birds of prey - according to Nick Fox. Everyday a new text about behavior here in Diário de Estudos de Falcoaria and also in the site www.diariodefalcoaria.com

According to Nick Fox, each raptor is hatched with its own “individual biological program”, a legacy that it inherits from the birds that have survived long enough to breed. The three interacting components of this program are: specific instincts, biological drives and individual temperaments. It´s important to notice that each bird has a different capacity for storing information in its memory, so some birds learn faster than others due to this.

The bird behave in certain ways due to this genetic/inherited component, when the appropriate circumstances arise during its life. In captivity there are two possibilities: or the bird will never express that particular behavior, or it may express it in a different or displaced way, so that the falconer will get puzzled, trying to understand the origin of this odd behavior.


The specific instincts center primarily on the corpus striatum of the bird. Each bird of prey specie has differences in behavior, temperament, hunting technics, nesting etc. The peregrine and the goshawk are both exclusive predators of vertebrates, however their temperament and their approaches to hunting, courtship and nesting are different from each other. The goshawk sees a small movement and launch immediately in attack, and its brain will process the signal in flight, and will abort the attack if its nothing special that caused the movement.

Birds that attack over short distances tend to live in or near woodland and to have very fast reactions. Species that attack active quarry over long distances live in the open, and they tend to premeditate their attacks, which are tactical and unspontaneous. This is one reason why falcons tend to have more equable temperaments.

According to Fox, more of bird behavior is instinctive than appears at first sight, as it is more advantageous for the bird to do something instinctively than to have to learn it. Nevertheless, learning is an important tool for the hawk. Instinct by itself cannot totally prepare the hawk for the wide variety of prey it is likely to encounter, so the bird has to learn by experience which attack styles are appropriate for each kind of prey. Flying skills, footing ability and basic attack strategies, all of these are based on instinct but are improved by learning.

There is a big difference according to the hawk´s species, in terms of instinct and learning. The species that are more specialized have a hunting behavior that is more governed by instinct. The species that are more generalists or opportunists have a behavior more shaped trough learning. Breeding, on the other hand, has all the major components stereotyped or easily learned through imprint, so it´s mainly instinctive.

Like and check my page tomorrow to know more about the components of behavior!

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