Show Details

Tail-Wagging Birds

September 1, 2010

A listener asks: Why do some birds bob their tails up and down?

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):
Why birds bob their tails…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Listener Miranda Edison of Worthington, Massachusetts called in with this question:

MIRANDA EDISON:
I’m wondering why birds bob their tails up and down.

HIRSHON:
We consulted ornithologist Gary Richison, of Eastern Kentucky University. He says that some species probably do it to flush out insects for an easy meal.

GARY RICHISON (Eastern Kentucky University):
For example, with Willy Wagtails that are found in Australia, it’s been pretty well documented that their tail movements probably help to flush out insects.

HIRSHON:
Others may be informing potential predators that they’ve been detected.

GARY RICHISON:
If they know that they’ve been spotted and the bird that they’ve been thinking about attacking is in really good condition, the predator would be better off not wasting the time and energy to attack them.

HIRSHON:
And if you have a question, give us a call at 1-800-why-isit. If we use your question, we’ll send you a Science Update mug! I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.