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Bold bird is caught stealing fur from fox
The fox is a known predator of songbirds, but this brave little bird did what she had to do anyway.
D.G. Sciortino
09.09.21

Though some birds are very small, they can be very brave. Brave enough to mess with a fox. The Texas Backyard Wildlife recently posted a video of an adventurous black-crested titmouse creeping upon a sleeping fox.

What makes that so crazy is the fact that foxes eat songbirds. But this titmouse did not care about that.

It even hops up and down on the fox a few times, testing the waters. That’s because this titmouse was on a mission. She needed to snatch some of that fox’s fur to make a nest.

Texas Backyard Wildlife - YouTube
Source:
Texas Backyard Wildlife - YouTube

And she succeeded! The fox was even roused from his slumber in the process.

Thankfully, he didn’t seem to mind too much.

He tried to shake the bird off but that little bird was persistent.

Texas Backyard Wildlife - YouTube
Source:
Texas Backyard Wildlife - YouTube

Anyway, he was more concerned about getting back to his nap than anything.

So he let it slide.

Plus, he had the fur to spare. He just let the little bird do her thing.

Texas Backyard Wildlife - YouTube
Source:
Texas Backyard Wildlife - YouTube

“Once she’d established that the fox wasn’t going to kill her, she went to work plucking out fur, and the fox let her do it!” Texas Backyard Wildlife wrote on their YouTube page. “We were astonished.”

Texas Backyard Wildlife - YouTube
Source:
Texas Backyard Wildlife - YouTube

“Occasionally our cameras catch things that we wouldn’t believe if we hadn’t seen them ourselves. This is one of those things,” Texas Backyard Wildlife wrote.

It turns out that the titmouse is actually known for these kinds of feats of bravery.

There are lots of videos capturing these birds swooping in to steal hair from cats, raccoons, porcupines, and even the heads of humans.

Texas Backyard Wildlife - YouTube
Source:
Texas Backyard Wildlife - YouTube

According to ScienceNews, here’s even a term for this odd behavior called kleptotrichy which means to steal hair.

There’s actually very little scientific research of this phenomenon in birds.

Most research is found in videos from non-scientists who just happen to be catching glimpses of these birds in the act.

Texas Backyard Wildlife - YouTube
Source:
Texas Backyard Wildlife - YouTube

“Citizen scientists, bird watchers, and people with dogs knew this behavior much more than the scientists themselves,” animal behaviorist Mark Hauber of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign told ScienceNews. “Popular observations precede science rather than the other way around, which is a valid way to do science.”

Texas Backyard Wildlife - YouTube
Source:
Texas Backyard Wildlife - YouTube

Ecologist Henry Pollock, also of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, didn’t start his research when he saw a titmouse plucking some fur from a sleeping raccoon in an Illinois state park in May 2020.

“I was like, ‘Wow, I’ve never seen anything like that,” said Pollock.

He and his colleagues could only find 11 references to different kinds of birds stealing hair from live mammals, while a YouTube search came up with 99 videos.

Texas Backyard Wildlife - YouTube
Source:
Texas Backyard Wildlife - YouTube

Apparently, these birds need the hair pretty badly.

“Plucking hairs from raccoons, which are common avian nest predators, suggests that it’s obviously worth it to get that hair,” Pollock says.

It’s is believed that in addition to using the hair to build the nest, this hair might be used to confuse would-be predators and parasites. Still, it’s kind of hilarious to watch.

Check out this fox fur snatching bird in the video below.

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By D.G. Sciortino
hi@sbly.com
D.G. is a contributing writer in Shareably. She's based in Connecticut and can be reached at hi@shareably.net.
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