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Crocodiles use tools to hunt birds

Posted on Tuesday, 3 December, 2013 | Comment icon 12 comments

The reptiles were found to use sticks to attract nest-building birds. Image Credit: CC BY 2.0 Spencer Wright

Crocodiles and alligators have been observed using a special technique to lure and catch birds.

In recent years reptiles have been recognized as being a lot more behaviorally complex than had previously been believed with remarkably intricate social interactions, rapid learning abilities and in some cases, the intelligent use of tools as bait.

One recent example of this can be observed in behavior exhibited by crocodiles in India and alligators in the United States. The aquatic reptiles have been found lying partially submerged below egret or heron colonies with sticks balanced on top of their snouts. When the birds come down to grab the sticks to use in building their nests the trap is sprung and the crocodile or alligator will have itself an easy meal.

The technique is significant because it demonstrates that these creatures are able to use tools to bait their prey, something that crocodilians are not generally known for.

The animals appear to have adapted this technique from observations of sticks being retrieved by birds from the water and even seem to know the time of the year ( when the birds are building their nests ) during which the method is most likely to be effective.

Source: Scientific American | Comments (12)

Tags: Crocodile, Alligator

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #3 Posted by Sundew on 4 December, 2013, 0:56
Interesting, that increases our knowledge of tool using animals for sure. I heard a story, perhaps apocryphal, that an African Safari guide came to a river and saw a couple of guys stripping down and about to go for a swim in a local river. The guide told them it was very dangerous; there were crocs in the river. They replied with a bit of arrogance that they were from the Peace Corps and went swimming anyway. Don't know if they ever recovered the bodies. So if true these two stories prove; there are some smart Crocodilians and some dumb Homo Sapiens.
Comment icon #4 Posted by pallidin on 4 December, 2013, 3:25
I don't know how fast these armored beasts can travel on land if hungry, but I choose to keep a safe distance from them.
Comment icon #5 Posted by third_eye on 4 December, 2013, 3:48
We are getting more and more evidence of tool use from all forms of life in the natural world ... from birds to reptiles to fish ... yes fish ... ~ some creatures just make do with what they have and what they were given at birth ... as long as it provides, it is enough ... ~
Comment icon #6 Posted by Michelle on 4 December, 2013, 4:03 made me realize how long it's been since I've been scuba diving.
Comment icon #7 Posted by msmike1 on 4 December, 2013, 14:45
I will need a lot more evidence for me to believe that these reptiles are using tools. Not saying it is impossible, just not likely. When alligators or crocs emerge from the water with just their heads and snouts visible they do so very quietly, slowly, and with a great deal of stealth. The sticks were probably lying on top of the water and just came to rest on the animals head. I don't believe it did this intentionally. I have been around alligators all my life and have never witnessed them using tools in any way. Like I said, not saying they couldn't, just that I don't believe it... [More]
Comment icon #8 Posted by Sundew on 5 December, 2013, 0:53
If they frequent heron rookeries during breeding season, the nests would be full of sticks collected by the parent birds, and no doubt many fall into the water below. Therefore it is possible that researchers are seeing gators/crocs with fallen nesting material on their heads, waiting for a meal when a nestling falls from above. Any heron (re)gathering nesting material below the rookeries might make easy prey, but I see your point that it may all be accidental and not that the reptiles are gathering sticks to lure birds. Animals do have a sense of timing where food is concerned, tool use ... [More]
Comment icon #9 Posted by third_eye on 5 December, 2013, 1:36
From the OP link Seems to be quite deliberate baiting intentions to me ... the crocs are doing it with purpose ... ~
Comment icon #10 Posted by msmike1 on 6 December, 2013, 21:30
Well, if you only watch the crocs at certain times of the year, then of course you are going to see certain behaviors. The above quote is speculation at best. Mike
Comment icon #11 Posted by msmike1 on 6 December, 2013, 21:33
The quote above is speculation at best. During with all the commotion that goes on in those nests sticks and such fall into the water frequently. If the gator is waiting then of course the sticks fall on the animal. That floating sticks are rare is an absurd explanation. Mike
Comment icon #12 Posted by TopToffee on 7 December, 2013, 13:40
They can use whatever the hell they like as long as it's not one of my legs or arms.

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