Field Note: Captive Audience
Published: August 30, 2022
A yellow-billed stork leans down, searching for its next meal. (Photo: © Mark Seth Lender)
Cooperative hunting among birds is rare but Explorer in Residence Mark Seth Lender shares an unexpected instance among yellow-billed storks in Kenya.
For hunters, dry season is a transformation. The relentless walk and stalk then run of wet season becomes a jogging in place. Thirst does the legwork. All the hunter needs is a nearby source of of water, and patience. While the strategies available to the hunted come down to physical size, strength in numbers, or wait until dark and hope for the best.
Unless, the hunted not only need water to live but also live in water. As water shrinks to pools, then puddles, among the obligatory water dwellers their numbers work against them. Propinquity becomes an added attraction, concentrating the hunter’s rewards. Only night remains as something of a friend of the hunted.
Night, or its equivalent.
Turbid water is an unavoidable consequence of drought. It creates a perpetual gloom in which fish and amphibians hide. In clear open pools a single wading bird is an entire hunting party. In the remnant wet, thickened to the consistency of condensed milk, the waders need each other’s help.
The yellow-billed storks’ proximity alone indicates cooperative hunting. Even in such greatly diminished and narrowed waters the storks could have spread out or each taken a different pool, which they did not. Yellow-billed storks habituated themselves to hunting close together because it worked under these particular circumstances. Whether intended or serendipitous, I cannot say for certain.
Back to Mark Seth Lender Field Notes
Living on Earth wants to hear from you!
P.O. Box 990007
Boston, MA, USA 02199
Newsletter [Click here]
Donate to Living on Earth!
Living on Earth is an independent media program and relies entirely on contributions from listeners and institutions supporting public service. Please donate now to preserve an independent environmental voice.
Sailors For The Sea: Be the change you want to sea.
Innovating to make the world a better, more sustainable place to live. Listen to the race to 9 billion
The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment: Committed to protecting and improving the health of the global environment.
Energy Foundation: Serving the public interest by helping to build a strong, clean energy economy.
Contribute to Living on Earth and receive, as our gift to you, an archival print of one of Mark Seth Lender's extraordinary wildlife photographs. Follow the link to see Mark's current collection of photographs.
Buy a signed copy of Mark Seth Lender's book Smeagull the Seagull & support Living on Earth