Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Murder of Crows

Two crows attack an osprey nest off the coast of Flamingo 

As if the Everglades didn't have it tough enough with restricted water flows and enormous invasive pythons, an additional assailant has found refuge in the park. The American crow, whose call can be heard from Cape Sable to Flamingo arrived with the influx of visitors who leave their food unattended and car doors open. Unsatisfied with the scraps of tourists, they have moved on to finer dining. On the islands close to mainland, spoonbills and reddish egret nests are pillaged by roving gangs of crows leaving only hollowed eggs and bloody carcasses. Suspected to attack only when the parents are off the nest, Audubon has coordinated with Everglades National Park to close several channels that pass through sensitive nesting areas for this very reason. I was surprised then, when I witnessed two crows attacking an osprey nest as the mother stood guard over her clutch. They pecked, squawked, and surrounded her for 20 minutes until giving up, probably to return the following day for another fight. If they are this bold with a sharp-beaked and razor-taloned osprey, how would they fair against an unassuming pink spoonbill?

Two spoonbill eggs eaten by crows. Photo by Adam Chasey

I've already found at least 6 nests ravaged by crows, and if the problem persists, it could just be enough to force a colony to abandon their young. Not too long ago a burmese python was spotted swimming in Florida Bay, probably on its way to one of the mangrove islands. Imagine if a 10-foot python descended on a wading bird rookery. At this rate, maybe it's only a matter of time. Do we really need to love all creatures equally?

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