I led a group of 20 people on a walk in Central Park this morning. New York is a tough place and we have tough birds to prove it.
As we crossed the lawn on the way to Belvedere Castle, we were confronted by a Robin who absolutely refused to let us pass until he got his due. This cocky little mugger had a vibrant brick-red breast which he puffed up as he walked right up to us. He posted himself at our feet and absolutely refused to give ground until one of our group forked over the better part of her granola bar. Like Eli Wallach's character in "The Magnificent Seven", he left us just enough so that we wouldn't starve. I gotta tell you that the episode brought back a lot of bad memories of having my lunch stolen by playground toughs!
After being held up for our one granola bar we witnessed twenty minutes of the most fearsome fighting that Central Park has seen in years. As we were watching a pair of Red-bellied Woodpeckers doing a little housekeeping on a nest cavity, a gang of Starlings appeared and made a concerted effort to toss the pair out of their new digs. This was high drama. The Starlings seemed to be orchestrating an organized assault. As soon as both Woodpeckers were lured out of the hole, one or two of the Starlings would dive in and block the opening with their dagger-sharp bills. We watched the male Red-bellied force his way past the armor and evict the invaders several times. By the time we left, it appeared that the Red-bellied Woodpeckers would carry the day.
Nevertheless -- the smart money is on the Starlings.
In Central Park, even the Robins are tough!