The Territorial Imperative

The magpie patrols its territory
Flying solo

The Territorial Imperative was a book I read back in the late 60’s, as a freshman at Colorado State University. It has informed and influenced me ever since. Its “big ideas” predated Evolutionary Psychology, by some ten/twenty years.


was a word coined by The Naturalist, E.O. Wilson, around 1975. Sociobiology, as defined by Wilson is: “The systematic study of the biological basis of all social behavior.” He was vilified. [Sorry Bret Weinstein, you’re not the first. This has been going on since forever?]

Magpies and Crows

here now, in 2020 [where I live in north Westminster, Colorado] are still working out the complexities of territory as it relates to survival – or who controls (limited) resources in a natural world. Also known as Life.

Geography and Boundaries 

are human words (language) which attempt to define demarcations of who controls what, with regard to who has power over what is what (also known as politics). But, this has been going on since forever in the existence of Life.

The Apex Of Civilization

is what I call where I live. Because there is almost no crime or violence. All us humans live together without conflict. Even in this time of fear of death and the Covid-19 pandemic. But the birds, of the Corvidae family, don’t care about us. They’re just doing what they’ve always done.

The Corvidae family of birds is considered to be one of the most intelligent creatures on earth. [There are YouTube videos of them speaking English to their “masters”.]

Who knows? I have only my own interactions and observations that I can rely on. And, yeah, they’re pretty “talkative”, social, and seem to “know” what they’re doing.

Happy? I have no idea if that’s even in their vocabulary, or consciousness. Or if they’re even conscious. I talk to them and they talk back. I feed and observe them. I count them, watch and listen and record their behavior (i.e. the scientific method). They don’t migrate. They build nests (homes), mate (reproduce), and behave.

They seem to like/love where they live – in the apex of civilization. It’s quiet, green, open, with water and plenty of food. What’s not to like?

The Crows

who live just west of here (in a much more urban environment). Are they the enemy? What is going on? The demarcation seems to be Bradburn Blvd, about one and half mile west of here. As the crow flies.

The crows are there, the magpies here. There is no mingling, or boundary transgression. Except, every so often there seems to be a scouting party? Checking out the adjacent territory?

Crows look around, thinking of expanding their territory, or needing to?
A crow scouting party

The Territorial Imperative

might be the most defining characteristic of Life, or biology.

This morning, as is the case every so often, a magpie perches on the highest point overlooking the territory.

Birds perch at the highest point, but not always.
Magpie watches over his/her territory.


Not enough territory / space?
Ants at war

Is a question under my consideration. I’ll keep watching, observing the bird behavior, and applying the scientific method. I’ve observed war between similar creatures. Not birds but insects. Ants. [Looks like the red ants destroyed the black ants.]







And then, what if Joni Mitchell was right?


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.