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Mystery Attack
By Don Grussing

The territorial squabbles between male Robins in spring are interesting and fun to watch.  For one thing, these squabbles can help you determine the rather rigid boundaries that mark the breeding territories of Robin pairs in your neighborhood. Beyond that they are just interesting to see as the birds, bump, leap, twist, flutter and grab at each other trying to establish who is boss. Seldom do these battles result in damage or injury to either bird.

One day in my back yard I saw a Robin engaged in what appeared to be just such a duel, but there was only one bird—not two. What the heck? The male Robin was ferociously attacking something — fluttering, jumping high, twisting around, obviously very agitated. Unlike most short-lived Robin battles, the fight went on for about five minutes. Finally, the lone Robin stopped and stood there panting for about half a minute, feathers ruffled and wings drooping.  I wondered if he had been caught in some thread, fishing line, or string.  But then he flew away. I walked outside to examine the fight scene.  And there, dead on the ground, was the object of the Robin’s fury: a dead, small tree frog. The Robin did not try to eat the frog after it killed it.

I went back inside for awhile to see if Robin would return.  He did not. And while I now knew what the fight was about, its purpose is still a mystery.

What do you think?