Black stork quarrels with white storks

Black stork quarrels with white stork in Schoonebeek, photo by Boudewijn Benting

This Boudewijn Benting photo shows a black stork quarreling with a white stork at the nest in Schoonebeek, Drenthe province in the Netherlands.

Translated from Dagblad van het Noorden daily in the Netherlands, 9 April 2020, by Frank Jeuring:

A black stork has settled in the village park of Schoonebeek since Wednesday afternoon. To the great surprise of bird experts, the special animal immediately quarrelled with another pair of [white] storks.

Joop Scherpen from Schoonebeek has been a volunteer in the village park for many years and according to him, it is already a rarity when common storks come here. But a week and a half ago, the first couple suddenly registered. They wanted to build a nest in the nest post in the park. It is quite remarkable that there is now also a black stork in the village park to admire. “When I saw him on Wednesday, I thought: what is this? It is really a very special animal to see.”

But even more remarkable than the appearance, according to Scherpen, is the behaviour of the animal. “He keeps chasing the other pair of storks out of the nest. They are mating and now he stops building their nest”, he says.

“Much shyer”

According to experts from BirdLife, this is a unique situation because this behaviour does not suit this bird.

Frits Koopman, manager of Ooievaarsstation De Lokkerij in De Schiphorst, is also surprised. “This is very remarkable because we don’t know this from the black stork. Normally this animal is much shyer than the common stork”, he says. “Moreover, this species does not usually breed on high nesting posts, but rather in low bushes or on rocky edges.”

According to Koopman, the animal mainly occurs east of the River Elbe. According to him, the Netherlands does not belong to the normal habitat of the bird, but the animal does pop up here more often. “Although it is still a rare appearance in the Netherlands. Bird watchers will go there if he can be seen anywhere”, he says.

“As far as I am concerned, he will fly on quickly”

The stork expert suspects that the animal lost its way during the migration of the birds. “It could be that he lost his group or that he lost his way while migrating and ended up in Schoonebeek”, he says. …

However, the Schoonebeker prefers to see the animal relocate as soon as possible. “That nest pole in the park may have been there for thirty years, without ever having a stork on it. And precisely now he disturbs the other storks when building their nest. So, as far as I’m concerned, he will fly on quickly.”

Oxpeckers warn black rhinos against danger

This 2017 video from Africa is called Black Rhino & Oxpeckers; A cleaning service.

And the birds do more for the rhino than just cleaning.

From ScienceDaily:

Black rhinos eavesdrop on the alarm calls of hitchhiking oxpeckers to avoid humans

April 9, 2020

In Swahili, red-billed oxpeckers are called Askari wa kifaru, or “the rhino’s guard”. Now, a paper appearing April 9 in the journal Current Biology suggests that this indigenous name rings true: red-billed oxpeckers may act as a first line of defense against poachers by behaving like sentinels, sounding an alarm to potential danger. By tracking wild black rhinos, researchers found that those carrying oxpeckers were far better at sensing and avoiding humans than those without the hitchhiking bird.

While conservation efforts have rebounded the critically endangered black rhino’s numbers, poaching remains a major threat. “Although black rhinos have large, rapier-like horns and a thick hide, they are as blind as a bat. If the conditions are right, a hunter could walk within five meters of one, as long as they are downwind,” says Roan Plotz (@RoanPlotz), a lecturer and behavioral ecologist at Victoria University, Australia., who co-authored the paper with ecological scientist Wayne Linklater (@PolitEcol) of California State University — Sacramento. Oxpeckers, which are known to feed on the ticks and lesions found on the rhino’s body, may make up for the rhino’s poor eyesight by calling out if they detect an approaching human.

To study the role that oxpeckers might play, Plotz and his team recorded the number of oxpeckers on two groups of the rhinos they encountered. Rhinos tagged with radio transmitters — which allowed researchers to track them while evading detection from oxpeckers — carried the bird on their backs more than half the time. The untagged black rhinos they found, on the other hand, carried no oxpeckers most of the time — suggesting that other untagged rhinos that carried the birds might have avoided encountering the researchers altogether. “Using the differences we observed between oxpeckers on the tagged versus untagged rhinos, we estimated that between 40% and 50% of all possible black rhino encounters were thwarted by the presence of oxpeckers,” says Plotz.

Even when the researchers were able to locate the tagged rhinos, the oxpeckers’ alarm calls still appeared to play a role in predator defense. The field team ran a “human approach” experiment, where one researcher would walk towards the rhino from crosswind while a colleague recorded the rhino’s behavior. The field team recorded the number of oxpecker carried, the rhinos’ behavior upon approach, and the distance of the researcher when either the rhinos became vigilant or, if undetected, it became unsafe to get any closer.

“Our experiment found that rhinos without oxpeckers detected a human approaching only 23% of the time. Due to the bird’s alarm call, those with oxpeckers detected the approaching human in 100% of our trials and at an average distance of 61 meters — nearly four times further than when rhinos were alone. In fact, the more oxpeckers the rhino carried, the greater the distance at which a human was detected,” he says. He adds that these improved detection and distance estimates may even be conservative, because they don’t take into account the untagged rhinos carrying oxpeckers that the team could not detect.

When a rhino perceived the oxpecker alarm call, it nearly always re-oriented itself to face downwind — their sensory blind spot. “Rhinos cannot smell predators from downwind, making it their most vulnerable position. This is particularly true from humans, who primarily hunt game from that direction,” says Plotz.

Taken together, these results suggest that oxpeckers are effective companions that enable black rhinos to evade encounters with people and facilitate effective anti-predator strategies once found. Some scientists even hypothesize that oxpeckers evolved this adaptive behaviour as a way to protect their source of food: the rhinos.

“Rhinos have been hunted by humans for tens of thousands of years, but the species was driven to the brink of extinction over the last 150 years. One hypothesis is that oxpeckers have evolved this cooperative relationship with rhinos relatively recently to protect their food source from human overkill,” says Plotz.

Despite this closely tied relationship, oxpecker populations have significantly declined, even becoming locally extinct in some areas. As a result, most wild black rhino populations now live without oxpeckers in their environment. But based on the findings in this study, reintroducing the bird back into rhino populations may bolster conservation efforts. “While we do not know that reintroducing the birds would significantly reduce hunting impacts, we do know oxpeckers would help rhinos evade detection, which on its own is a great benefit,” says Plotz.

Plotz says that these findings, inspired by a Swahili name, also highlight the importance of local knowledge. “We too often dismiss the importance of indigenous people and their observations. While western science has been incredibly useful, there are many insights we can learn from indigenous communities.”

New Zealand little owl visits albatross nest

This 9 April 2020 video says about itself:

(Full Visit!) A Little Owl Makes a Surprise Appearance on the #Royal [Albatross Nest] Cam

For the first time ever, a Little Owl flew into view of the infrared illuminator, alighting first on the ground near the nestling, then flying up to perch on the camera before flying again out of frame.

Little Owls were introduced to the South Island of New Zealand in the first decade of the 1900s with the goal of helping to control pest species. While they didn’t appear to have a large impact on pests, they also haven’t seemed to have a negative effect on native fauna, mainly eating insects (particularly beetles, also caterpillars, earwigs and moths); they also eat small mammals, small birds, lizards and frogs.

RoyalCam was set up in January 2016 by the Department of Conservation. For the 2019/2020 season, we have collaborated with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Young sea eagles hatched in Oostvaardersplassen

This 8 April 2020 video shows a sea eagle nest in Oostvaardersplassen national park in the Netherlands.

You can hear Cetti’s warbler, chiffchaff and greylag goose sounds.

Warden Hans-Erik Kuypers reports that on 8 April, it was discovered that eaglets had hatched at that nest.

From 2006 on, sea eagles have nested successfully in Oostvaardersplassen year after year, except for 2019.

In 2019, 15 white-tailed eagle couples nested in the Netherlands.