Ask most anyone to give an example of a symbiotic relationship between birds and mammals and they’ll probably mention, cattle and Cattle Egrets. One rarely sees a field of cattle without seeing some Cattle Egrets opportunistically feeding on the insects and other inverts that are stirred up in the weeds by the browsing bovines.
There’s another and very similar relationship in Costa Rica as well; monkeys and Double-toothed Kites. Similar deal…but it takes place up in the forest canopy.
Here in California, my wife Helen and I discovered another and similar bird/mammal symbiotic relationship; River Otters and Great Blue Herons.
Recently, we watched a family of River Otters doing their otter-thing in a rice field irrigation canal…gracefully chasing fish, frogs and crayfish (which we call ‘crawdads’). Twice now we’ve observed a Great Blue Heron cautiously following the otters down the canal. The heron was obviously picking up prey that somehow escaped the otters.
We also noticed that the heron would never got too close to the otters. Otters, as you know, can be fierce, alpha, wetland predators and Great Blue Heron probably tastes pretty good. People often describe otter behavior as ‘playful’. SHUH…it may look playful but it’s deadly serious.
Photos courtesy of Helen LeVasseur.