A Great Egret nabs a Mexican Free-tailed Bat - Observation of the Week, 12/23/18

A Mexican free-tailed bat is a snack item for a great egret - it’s our Observation of the Week! Seen in the United States by @kempo63.

“I've been out photographing birds every weekend, dragging my wife and granddaughter all over the California central valley to most of the Wildlife Preserves and refuges. I absolutely love finding and photographing new species (to me) of birds, and sending copies of them to my mother to enjoy,” says Richard Morgan. Originally from Pennsylvania, he says “I've started taking bird photography serious about a year ago when my Dad passed. I bought my first DSLR camera to take back to Pennsylvania (I live in California) to take photos of friends and family, and when I returned I wanted to make use of the camera, so I photographed my first backyard bird, and haven't looked back since then.”

It was on a trip to the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area where Richard took the above photograph, and he almost didn’t make it in time. "That was just plain luck I suppose.

My wife, granddaughter, and I were just pulling in the gate at The Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area outside of Sacramento, when I spotted the egret on my left side, grabbed the camera with a 500mm lens (heavy!) and shot a few photos with one arm, through the driver side window. I knew that it had something in its bill, but didn't see that it was a bat until after I had the car stopped and reviewed the photos. That was awesome!

Egrets are generalist predators and often devour fish, reptiles, amphibians, and (non-flying) mammals such as rodents, so bats are not the first type of prey which come to mind when you think about this bird. How, then, did this bat find itself in the beak of one? Well, as iNaturalist user @fogartyf points out in a comment on the observation, the nearby Yolo Causeway is home to hundreds of thousands of Mexican free-tailed bats, the largest roost in California. Bats skim over pond and lake surfaces to get a drink and it’s likely this one somehow ended up in the water, making it an easy snag (although perhaps not so easy meal) for the egret.

I don’t think many of us often think of bats as food items for other animals, so I reached out to Jakob Fahr (@jakob), who started the AfriBats project on iNaturalist, to see what he had to say on the subject. Jakob tells me that there are the usual suspects such as raptors, snakes, and mammals such as civets and genets (Viverridae) and mustelids, and notes that some predators such as the bat hawk and bat falcon specialize in bat predation. Also, “fascinating are bats preying on other bats, for instance Nycteris grandis in Africa, Macroderma gigas in Australia, and Vampyrum spectrum in the Neotropics.” Jakob also notes that other animals such as amphibians, insects, and yes, herons and egrets, have also been seen preying on these flying mammals.

“I've been using iNaturalist to help with bird IDs since I'm relatively new to birding. (No one wants to get called out for posting the wrong bird id, right?),” says Richard (above). “Someone made a comment on one of my posts that I should submit the photos to iNaturalist, and I've decided to make a commitment to myself to submit observations and photos of each bird that I've photographed each weekend.”

 - by Tony Iwane


- In addition to iNat, Richard posts his photos to Instagram.

- Have you ever wanted to see a giant centipede catch a bat? Well, thanks to the BBC, now you can.

- One more nice video about the Yolo Bypass bats because why not?

Posted by tiwane tiwane, December 24, 2018 12:12 AM

Comments

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It’s such a great observation, @kempo63 ! Thanks for sharing this on iNat! :)

Posted by sambiology 3 months ago (Flag)
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Great shot of what had to be a thrill to witness!

Posted by catenatus 3 months ago (Flag)
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Wonderful shot! How exciting that must have been. I seriously did not know an Egret could eat a bat.

Posted by walkingstick2 3 months ago (Flag)
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In future, could links to recent observations of the day be listed at the end of observation of the week posts?

Posted by jeremyhussell 3 months ago (Flag)
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My husband and I watched the Giant Centipede eating a bat. That was crazy! Who'd a thought. Not us, anyway.

Posted by walkingstick2 3 months ago (Flag)
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@jeremyhussell there is an Observation of the Day project, which is probably the best place to find all observations of the day.

Posted by tiwane 3 months ago (Flag)
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Great observation!
Speaking of birds eating bats, there is also this:
"Great tits search for, capture, kill and eat hibernating bats"
https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rsbl.2009.0611

Posted by tkoffel 3 months ago (Flag)
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Wow! Great observation and great photos!

Posted by alexis_orion 3 months ago (Flag)
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Amazing observation ad great shots with one arm!

Posted by susanhewitt 3 months ago (Flag)
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Simply amazing!

Posted by thatkazakhbirder 3 months ago (Flag)
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Awesome!!

Posted by kkeivit 3 months ago (Flag)
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Incredible!

Posted by bluejay2007 3 months ago (Flag)

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