Bird Alliance?


Can you think of a way a hawk and a songbird could work together? More specifically, a way a hawk could use a songbird to find prey? In my experience it seems that all non-raptors have an inherent hatred for any raptor (consider my post about woodpeckers and Blue Jays attacking a tiny kestrel). But one morning at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary I saw a behavior that made me think  teamwork could exist.

I was inside when I heard a pair of Great Crested Flycatchers calling incessantly for several minutes. I went to investigate, but instead of harassing a hawk, I found them frantically fluttering around the base of a palmetto. Upon a closer look, I was surprised to see a Yellow Rat Snake slithering through the low branches of a bush. Snakes are common nest predators, although I had never seen one actually attempting a raid.


The unusual part is what happened next. In swept a Red-shouldered Hawk, which landed on top of the bushes that the snake was in, and began looking downwards as if searching for the snake. It just so happens that Red-shouldered Hawks are major snake predators. I watched the hawk search for the snake for nearly an hour, but eventually the hawk gave up and flew away. The entire time, the flycatchers did not show the least bit of aggression towards the hawk. Maybe they even welcomed her presence. Is it possible that Red-shouldered Hawks use the alarm calls of songbirds to locate potential prey, such as snakes and rodents?? The hawks would get help finding food and the songbirds in turn would receive protection from a very large and sharp-beaked guard. It’s something I’ll definitely keep my eyes out for…


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