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Birds of a feather - by Meerabai King

Updated: May 31, 2022

Canada geese flock in Pagham Harbour, making a noisy and smile-inducing display.

Whether it’s a a flock of geese, a charm of finches, a murder of crows, a murmuration of starlings, a squabble of gulls or a deceit of lapwings - winter gives us delightful displays of birds.

But why do our birds flock together in winter, and where can we see the best feathered displays across the Peninsula?

The answer is simple- there is, of course, safety in numbers. A starling stands a higher chance of avoiding a peregrine falcon if it is surrounded by hundreds of other starlings, the predating peregrine won’t know which way to head and will likely end up catching the slowest starling it can, or one with a broken wing. By contrast, any starling sitting on their own would be an easy and unmissable target for the peregrine.

Why, then, don’t we see these huge flocks in the summer months? Most species prioritise raising their young in the warmer months and can’t fight their territorial instincts when it comes to defending their own food sources and territories. After all, raising chicks is when food matters most.

Pagham Harbour provides a wealth of flocking displays in the winter, such as the hundreds of lapwings you can see from North Wall, with rounded wings. Listen out for their iconic “peee-wit’ call, which lends to the lapwing’s other common name; the peewit. A group of

lapwings is called a deceit- perhaps named after the way parents birds lure predators away from chicks by feigning a broken wing.

Hundreds of lapwings flock in Pagham Harbour in winter

If you are fortunate enough to have a garden filled with feeders, I would recommend topping some up with niger seed to attract a charm of goldfinches into your garden. Better still would be leaving a wildpatch for the finches - the more prickly thistles the better!

Hundreds of rooks and crows flock opposite Chichester Marina after sunset

Crows, rooks and jackdaws from all over the Manhood Peninsula find safety in numbers at dusk. If you hear the squawks of crows above you as it is getting dark, look up and you will see all of them headed north, to the woodland at Bosham Hoe. For a front row seat to this noisy event, head to Chichester Marina as the sun sets and, when it has, you will see our local corvids heading to roost in their hundreds.



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