Birds use alligators as ‘BODYGUARDS’ to protect their nests. Wading birds get by with a little help from their toothy reptilian friends.
In an effort to keep their eggs beyond the appetites of mammals such as possoms. Many bird species build their nests above where alligators dwell.
But this relationship isn’t as one-sided as it seems – it works in the alligator’s favour as well.
Birds use alligators as ‘BODYGUARDS’
For many birds, losing their eggs to predators is the biggest threat to their next generation.
Nesting above a predator such as an alligator is a gamble.
There is a chance they may become an easy meal for the alligators.
The reptiles chase off or eat other predators which may have their eyes on the bird’s eggs.
Scientists from the University of Florida studied alligators in the Everglades.
There was any difference in the condition of animals.
Two families of birds tend to nest over the reptiles, the Pelecaniformes.
The white ibis and great egret, and the Ciconiiformes, which include birds such as herons.
Taking to the Everglades at night, the researchers snared adult and juvenile alligators – at 125 cm (4 ft) . Above in length – at a number of locations after nesting had finished, to avoid disturbing the birds. The bird species were mainly egrets and herons.
On average, those alligators with more energy reserves than those not living near a nest.
The birds nest a few metres above, out of reach of the snapping jaws, they get the protective benefits.
The alligators meanwhile, get the easiest meal in the swamp.
Dr Lucas Nell, a researcher at the University of Florida, told MailOnline: ‘Our study provides solid evidence that both nesting birds and alligators benefit from one another.
This has significant ramifications for the conservation of the Everglades.
Since crocodilians and nesting birds co-occur in many subtropical and tropical wetlands.
These types of relationships should be taken into account for global conservation efforts.
According to the researchers, the effect may be so strong that alligators may compete for territories
However, they added they will need to return to the wetlands to monitor the reptiles.
In addition, the mutual relationship could extend to other species of crocodilians and wading birds.
Writing in the journal Plos One, the authors explained: ‘These findings suggest the interaction is highly beneficial
While both animals may be acting in their best interests, researchers believe both speciesDr Nell told MailOnline: We believe both species are acting selfishly.
Wading birds have been shown to be attracted to sites with alligators.
Thus birds likely benefit from alligators because the latter’s presence deters nest predators.
So we cannot say which happened first, but I believe that since both sides receive benefits, both will seek the other out.