We humans have learned a lesson in observing increased personal space during the Covid pandemic — a lesson birds observe on a regular basis, not from anxiety about spreading disease, but more in response to their size, their level of thermal comfort, or their need for protection.
Big-bodied Wood Ducks sit relatively close together during the period when they are molting annually into their new suit of feathers.
However, social distance between birds depends greatly on their size and the ambient temperature in some species, increasing when it’s warm and decreasing when it’s very cool.
When the temperature drops, social distance collapses, and birds pile together to conserve body heat, like the Eastern Bluebirds did at a local park last winter during our week of -20F weather. (Photo by Scott Mohn, in a blog post on Feb. 7, 2021).
There are lots of examples of this huddling behavior in small and large birds during adverse weather conditions, where social distance and personal space becomes far less important than survival!