Egrets that eat swallows

Gene Bullock bullockg at earthlink.net
Sun Feb 3 14:13:27 PST 2002


I've watched cattle egrets eating both swallows and warblers in the Dry
Tortugas. When there is a big fall-out there, the birds are sometimes
pinned down for days by the weather. Since there is absolutely no food for
them, they eventually starve. Thus, there is plenty of food for the birds
that can eat other birds. It's a sad thing to watch, but a part of nature
that usually goes unnoticed. Fall-outs are an exceptional opportunity to
see beautiful birds up close, but are highly stressful and hazardous to the
birds. I've heard that the vast majority of migrating birds do not survive
their first season. Of course, we can't protect them from nature, but we
can certainly help them by preserving needed habitat along their migratory
route. I understand the Park Service's prohibition against bringing such
bird food as meal worms into the park (Dry Tortugas), but I sometimes
question the undiscriminating policy of eradicating non-native plants in
environmentally sensitive areas in which these plants have become important
sources of food and shelter for both nesting and migrating birds. In the
Dry Tortugas, for example, the eradication program has eliminated important
habitat on such islands as Loggerhead Key.
Gene Bullock



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