Extinction Burst

15 May 2012

Across the road I hear the ruckus made by the juvenile Clark’s Nutcrackers (aka Camp Robbers). The adults have been bringing them to various feeding stations in the area for a couple of weeks now. The adults are obviously good parents and have taken pains to show the kids how to live. For a few days at least they’ve been seen looking pathetic when an adult pays attention, yet manage to feed themselves fine when there isn’t attention. But today there’s a definite shift. The youngsters suddenly find no more assistance while eating. The response is a classic Extinction Burst – which typically happens right  at the start of the process, meaning this is an unusual bit of behavior I’m witnessing for this species. If the adult gives in, it actually reinforces bad behavior and makes the launching process even more difficult.

They try what worked in the past – a lowering of wings, a cry, an open mouth. The adult, distinguished with a white eye ring, doesn’t even notice or move for that matter. Maybe he didn’t do it right. Wings lowered further and shake them a bit, give a slightly louder cry, open the beak wider. Nothing. Again. Nothing. AGAIN! This time the cry is a shriek feathers are puffed out and the wings aren’t just shaking, but rather flail around – almost giving the perfect imitation of a wet dog shaking off water.

The adult flies off without a glance.

She’s good. Or maybe he’s good.

The cries actually increase in pitch and volume momentarily until the youngster follows and the adult turns to attack him. He pauses and yet follows again, but with a much more respectful request for food.

Thinking of all the graduates out there…and their parents.

Happy Tuesday!

One Response to Extinction Burst

  • Margie says:

    Animals in the wild are probably much better parents than lots of us humans. It is hard to let go. Tough love is really tough.

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