It has been discovered that certain avian species employ alligators as protective agents.
There are a few birds that have deduced from their animal experience that if they build their nests above alligator territory, predators will avoid eating their eggs.
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This is because the alligators will be a constant threat for these predators. It is another thing that the alligators also benefit from this arrangement. They eat up any baby birds or eggs that accidentally come down from the nests. The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE.
“Our study is the first to demonstrate a mutually beneficial relationship between nesting birds and a crocodilian: nesting wading birds provide nutrition for alligators that, by their mere presence, create predator-free space for birds,” co-author Lucas Nell from the University of Florida, told Discovery.
This is the first time that a symbiotic relationship has been shown to exist between nesting birds and alligators. While the wading birds are a source of food for alligators, the intruders that bother the birds are kept away from the territory by the fierce alligators.
The attacks on their nests is the greatest scourge faced by the the parent birds. Thus for the sake of their progeny, they build the nests in alligator territory.
Wading birds with long legs such as the heron, egret, ibis, stork and spoonbill come within this rubric. The predators that love bird eggs and chicks include raccoons. As for the alligators they snap at raccoons when they get close to their home grounds.
The experts who looked into this strange relationship of convenience between birds and alligators have found support for this in reality. The cameras that were fitted at the scene showed precisely this behavioral mechanism at work.
Even humans that tried to come close to the bird eggs were warded off by the alligators that jealously guarded their area. This is the territorial imperative in animals.
As the study progressed the body weight and situation of the female alligators were noted down in two circumstances. One was when they were present beneath the birds’ nests. The other was when they were away from their territory.
The body weight and situation of female alligators showed improvement in cases when the bird colonies were present. When they were not present such improvements in health markers were noticeably absent.
These findings were postulated while all the other factors were the same. While the birds’ nests were so high in the trees that the alligators could not possibly reach them, the incidences of dropping chicks and eggs amply made up for the bodyguard services the alligators lent the birds. At least their diet was considerably improved and so the health of the alligators remained optimal.
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Nell said, “Crocodilians and nesting birds co-occur throughout the tropics, so these may be globally important ecological associations.”