About the Author

Kyle Gordon


Kyle was born and raised in the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe. His childhood was spent scurrying barefooted along the banks of various rivers and dams, fishing rod ever-in-hand, enjoying the beauty and freedom of outdoors. Kyle obtained a degree in construction from UCT ...

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on Challenging  The Definition Of ‘Instinct’

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What a gift today! The stork that left from here where i live migrate to Londolozi… and we had gerbils as pets! Rodents are a very favourite topic in my family environment. Lovely little creatures. Beautiful article well written

Thanks Francesca, I’m glad you enjoyed the read!

Thanks for the interesting article.
Lots of “our” white European storks do not travel all the way down to Southern Africa any more, it seems. They have realized that it is easier to stay in Spain during the winter. There is obviously enough food for them there and the climate has become warmer.
It is indeed very interesting how animal behaviors changes with changing conditions to which they adapt.
Lovely pictures

Interesting! I didn’t realise there was a non0-migrant population. It is most likely a large part of that resident population is made up of the youngsters that are still learning the ropes.

Thanks Kyle, I love thoughts like this. Our storks migrate partly. Apparently a lot of the handraised storks here, do not go all the way (stay in Spain etc.) or do not go at all. Also, it seems as if the storks that do go, go earlier than they used to. Which is strange, because they leave here end of August, beginning of September, while there still is enough to eat. And I suppose most frogs at your end of the world are still quite sleepy then. So I wonder……… are those early flyers also handraised, but possibly from farther away, where it is colder? Or are they Dutch? Or?

Interesting theory Irene. The handraised storks are likely just learning from the migrant populations but “chicken out” part of the way along and stay in Spain (maybe?) Regarding the earlier departees, the mechanism for triggering the migration may just be a shortening of day length as opposed to a food resource scarcity. But that would just be theorising.I hadn’t even really taken the hand0-rearing aspect into consideration but if the idea of learnt behaviour is true, they’d just learn the route and migration pattern slightly later in life.

Thank you Kyle. I am also wondering if you – at the other end of the world 😉 – notice that the storks arrive earlier than they used to. Or if that has happened and it is slowly going back to normal again. Maybe some one has been keeping notes, but that is wishful thinking, I am sure……………

Kyle. I was recently in Estepona, in Southern Spain near Gilbralter and witnessed the magnificent sight of around 200 white stalks flying south . So dont worry, they’re on their way !!!!!

I’d love to see an aggregation of that many birds all flying together! Having written about it, I’ve never actually seen it for myself!!

I think there is a zero missing in the amount of km that the white storks travel. 2.000 km would only bring them from northern Europe to southern Europe, so I think it must be an even more whopping 20.000 km. Otherwise a great article.

Hi Betty0-Lou, you are indeed correct!! There are a couple of typos in there so please excuse those but that is definitely the most significant one!!

Fascinating dissertation and lofty cogitating Doctor Gordon! I imagine the Professor helped you?!!!

Hahaha thanks Bob!! It was a fun dive into a different way of thinking about things. The Professor was not a part of this one but I am still learning from the old boy on a daily basis.

A nice and thought provoking blog Kyle. I have often wondered how birds know when to migrate. Some birds, like yours, travel many miles to their winter/summer homes. From what I understand, they seem to migrate in a certain pattern all the time. Mother Nature is truly fascinating. Thanks for sharing with us – really enjoyed it.

Thanks Leonie, I’m glad you enjoyed it. There are so many mysteries, many of which I am sure we’ll never manage to unravel, but it’s still fun to try.

Fascinating and thought provoking essay this morning Kyle. Your cognitive state of mind , brought about by thinking of the white storks’ migration and what triggers their flight south, pushed me back into my own journey of finding answers to whether creatures follow instinctual or learned behaviors. I enjoy reading articles/blogs like this as it keeps the brain cells active! So do migratory birds follow their instincts, or is it learned from other birds?!

If you want to find out some mind-blowing instincts that humans possess, try reading The Master Book of Meme Law. It will describe how and why we get ourselves into scraps, from families to nations. It is a major education in group dynamics and how the individual contributes to social dynamics.
This is not a book about computer memes. It is a book about the original word meme, which was created by Howard Bloom and Richard Dawkins, both eminent social scientists. Challenge yourselves. http://www.memelaw.com

Hi Patrick. I’m very keen to read more on this. I like the concept of memetics and how our environments shape us. I have read a bit of Dawkins but haven’t come across this so I’ll give it a go!

Hi Kyle, Did you purchase the book yet? If not, I have an extra copy and I’ll be back in South Africa March 15th. I spent 3 months there last winter and came back on December 9, 2022. I was supposed to stay until March 9th, but cut the trip short when the author of the book in question got sick and died. I amy be taking over his Foundation, but that will be up to his daughter or a court order. I’m not sure yet. Messy business. But, the work of educating people to this symptom of being human is paramount to us getting past our differences and coming together for the benefit of all life on our planet. So, discussions with you can be very useful. Please let me know if you wish to engage. All the best, Patrick

I’m glad you enjoyed it Denise! It is a lot of fun to go down these rabbit holes. Often you end up with nothing more than more questions but it’s still worth it! In the end, I can’t answer that question definitively but I think in many species the behaviour is learnt. I am sure there are exceptions though. A related example is the migration of the Wandering Glider, a dragonfly that has no one to teach the offspring where to go but they find themselves generationally moving from South Africa to East Africa to India and back along the same path over 4 generations! It’s actually in this blog here: https://blog.londolozi.com/2021/10/19/is-the-an-ecosystem-in-the-sky-and-the-story/

Hi Kyle, thanks for the good blog on the white stork, very interesting and I have the utmost respect for all our migrate birds. It is just fantastic how far these birds fly to get better food and to breed. My lesser stripped swallows are back and they have been with us for 9 years.

A lot of people I’ve been chatting to about migration always mention how they love seeing their resident swallows return!! I’m glad you enjoyed it Valmai.

What an incredible coincidence Kyle that you should write a blog about instinct being particularly aimed at the migration of birds. Just this morning I was pondering the same thoughts as we live on the small island of Malta which is slap bang in the middle of a migration path for many birds heading north and south. Unfortunately a lot of these beautiful birds loose their lives to Maltese hunters (mainly to be stuffed and sold at a huge price to trophy collectors). I was pondering whether there might not only be some instinct as to when and which route to take but also that perhaps most of their habits were learnt from their flock. If this were the case, I was ever hopeful that with some luck they might alter their course instinctively to avoid a stop over in Malta had they witnessed the demise of part of the flock in the previous years. If anyone out there can confirm that this can occur it would certainly make my day, knowing that some of these magnificent birds we see migrating will make it to their summer/winter homes in one piece. 🙏🏻

Hi Cally. It really will be interesting to see if their migration route may change because of this! The sad part is that it just takes time and in that time, many birds will fall prey to the misdirected masses of humans over that particular section of their route.

Love this post! Certainly got me thinking. With one of my dogs (small Pomeranians whose breed ancestors were spitz hunting/herding dogs) I have often wondered about some of her behaviors. Like the fact that if she wants me to get something like the ball or the package at the door she will “herd” me!😂.

I’m sure there are carry0-overs from when our domesticated animals were wild. That may even be an interesting pointer toward the proof of instinctual behaviour!

Senior Digital Ranger

Very interesting discussion. I noticed that you grew up in the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe. I had the pleasure of visiting there Christmas 1997 or 1998 on a birdwatching expedition. We stayed at Aberfoyle Lodge and Chimanimani. Also visited Leopard Rock and the Great Zimbabwe. The high point of the trip was staying at a guest house run by an elderly English expat lady and being able to see a Swynnerton’s robin nesting. Very beautiful country!

Hi Paul, what a pleasure knowing that you have visited that part of the world. Al the rangers here at Londolozi are currently doing a Birding Big Year competition 0- how many southern African bird species can you tick in a year – and the Eastern Highlands is an absolute goldmine of endemics. I was there in April and had some great birding; hunted for that Swynnerton’s Robin but just could not find it. Aberfoyle is still going strong, a friend of mine from school currently managing it! Leopard Rock unfortunately is not doing so well which is such a pity as it was such a stunning resort and golf course in its day. Thanks Paul!

Kyle, what a great post. We love the way you finished it by talking about and asking us to consider the different “points of view” around us. We’re sure there are a lot of different points of view about the animal behaviors that you get to witness on a daily basis. It is interesting to think about whether these animals are acting the way they do because of learned behaviors or instinctual behaviors. You’ve got our heads turning and we’re thinking about it! Thanks

Thanks Michael and Terri, I’m really glad you enjoyed! I definitely think that there are so many instances in which we just cannot know what is going on and why, but it is a lot of fun to try and work it out; to try and separate ourselves and be objective about a scenario. It’s good practice for life in general too!

Thanks for responding Kyle. I’ll be there in a couple of weeks and we can discuss it further. I love these kinds of conversations, too. But, rabbit holes are for little furry creatures. We will discuss the major lapses in human understanding that are right in front of our eyes, though we prove blind as bats to see them. Some professionals call them blind spots. When I see them, I smack myself right in the forehead and say, “Why didn’t I know this sooner?” Aye!

I look forward to meeting you, too. Your latest story about the 2 leopards was good.

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