Allies Of Convenience?

It’s nice to see neighbors getting along especially, when they are species that usually fight. Most birds are pretty unforgiving when it comes to seeing birds of prey and will often mob them until they move on to some other territory. When nests are around, this is understandable, but Italy, as always is a land of surprises.

On the Gela Plain lesser kestrels are nesting in a colony in a cereal producing area which has lots of small mammals for them to eat. Colony nesting has some distinct advantages when it comes to babysitting as neighbors can be neighborly and take turns in keeping watch.

The unexpected findings by Camobello, Sarà, and Hare, which are published in the current issue of Ecological Behavior, show that there is a mixed colony of kestrels and jackdaws living happily and sharing the watch duty (1,2). Not, we should note, quite equally. The jackdaws got the job of doing most of the alarm calling to protect the nests.

So though both have a reduction in labor, the jackdaws are the junior partners. Perhaps that’s appropriate for noisier birds. We await developments as to how the relationship develops. The lesser kestrel numbers are pretty low (about 20,000 currently) so things may change if their numbers grow, but for now they are good neighbors.


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