Willet Tussle

Willet (Tringa semipalmata) males loudly defend their nesting and feeding territories with a ritualized walk along their territorial boundaries. This protective behavior can escalate into physical attacks.

Leonard and I were walking on the shore of Elkins Pond #4 at Ash Creek Wildlife Area (Modoc County CA) when we noticed two willets strutting back and forth.The willets appeared to be participating in a formal dance. Two other willets were standing apart, one to either side of the “strutters”. We began to watch. Before long the two males began to attack each other. They would tussle, part, strut a bit and then tussle again. This behavior went on for perhaps ten minutes. Eventually the two combatants turned away from each other and returned to the females who were about 100 feet apart, watching from the sidelines. All was peaceful again. Apparently each male decided to remain in its own territory with its own female.

We will never know if the performance was for territory or a female, however, it was interesting to watch.

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