Tuesday August 9, 2011
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Vincent Wildlife Trust, Barjarg, Barrhill, Girvan, KA26 0RB, Scotland
Predation on birds had not been observed in fifteen years of keeping captive otters, until the winter of 1999-2000, although many otters had proved adept at catching voles and amphibians. Before that time, road killed birds had been offered to otters to introduce them to the range of potential prey available after release. The otters had appeared not to recognise the dead birds as food, playing with them and dropping them into their pools. On occasions otters would chase songbirds or run at crows (Corvus corone) or herons (Ardea cinerea), which were stealing their fish. However these incidents appeared to be play or threat displays, rather than a serious attempt to catch the birds. Herons and crows had formed the habit of taking fish, with sometimes as many as six herons flying up the valley to the otter pens at feeding time and several families of crows being reared partly on stolen fish. The effect of the otters' digging and constant pressure of their feet within the pens was to create a plant community of annual weeds different from the surrounding fields. This attracted pheasants (Phasianus colchicus) and songbirds to visit regularly to take advantage of the seed bearing plants. On one occasion seven wintering wrens (Troglodytes troglodytes) were observed using the entrance tunnel of an occupied otter sleeping box for the night.
In early winter 1999 a sub adult female otter from the Scottish Borders was found one morning with the freshly killed body of a hen pheasant in her sleeping box. The feathers were disordered, but the skin was not broken. Vomit, full of chewed feathers was also present in the sleeping box. Over the next two nights the young otter learnt how to deal with feathered prey and consumed all but some feathers, the legs and larger bones of the pheasant. It was not known whether she had caught and killed the bird or simply taken advantage of a death from other causes. However, in the following winter months this otter was seen stalking other birds. She caught and ate another hen pheasant, a songthrush (Turdus philomelos), a herring gull (Larus argentatus), a black headed gull (Larus ridibundus) and a goose. The goose was so completely eaten that only one leg and a few wing feathers were left. It was tentatively identified as either a barnacle goose (Branta leucopsis) or a small Canada goose (Branta canadensis) (Paul COLLIN, pers. comm.). In the neighbouring pen two siblings from Shetland also caught and ate a heron, possibly having learned the behaviour from their neighbour's example.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS - Paul Collin, RSPB is thanked for identifying the grisly remains.
Resumen: Predación sobre aves por parte de
nutrias en cautiverio
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