Alligators get benefits of providing protection to wading birds

Alligators get benefits of providing protection to wading birds

A particular set of wading birds are known to reside above alligators with the aim of gaining protection from other predators. However, it had always been a field of interest that how the scaly reptile benefits from providing protection to the birds. Lately, researchers found that alligators do have an advantage in providing protection. A new research was conducted to study the bird habitats at Florida’s Everglades.

It was found that egrets, spoonbills, herons, ibises and storks are creating their nests above the biggest predator at the national park. The study revealed that alligators actually get a substantial amount of food from the breeding birds that create nest above them. The source of food is dropped chicks, which are the baby birds that fall from the nest subsequent to the bird laying more eggs than it is capable of raising.

"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”, said the lead author of the study, Dr. Lucas Nell from the University of Florida. The study involved studying the body parameters of the alligators protecting the birds.

Bird species often experience danger from predators like possums and raccoons, while raising their chicks. Thus, having an alligator around significantly reduces the risks. The researchers measured the improvement in the health of alligators with the intake of dropped chicks.

The team collected blood samples, as well as the length and weight statistics of approximately 40 alligators residing and not residing near the long-legged wading birds. The outcome revealed that the average body condition of the alligator not residing near birds was on the 17th percentile rank, while those residing near birds were ranked at 63rd percentile.