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Revista Brasileira de Ornitologia, 23(1), 9-11 March 2015 A bird assemblage mobs an adult pitviper in southeastern Brazil 1,2 Ivan Sazima Museu de Zoologia, C.P. 6109, Universidade Estadual de Campinas, CEP 13083-970, Campinas, SP, Brazil. Projeto Dacnis, Estrada do Rio Escuro, 4754, Sertão das Cotias, CEP 11680-000, Ubatuba, SP, Brazil. Corresponding author: email@example.com Received on 10 February 2015. Accepted on 10 March 2015. ABSTRACT: Birds mostly mob avian or mammalian predators, but harass snakes as well. The mobbed snakes are potential or actual bird predators, but records of birds mobbing vipers are rare. I report herein on an avian assemblage mobbing an adult Jararaca Lancehead (Bothrops jararaca) in the Atlantic Forest of southeastern Brazil. The bir d assemblage was composed of 8 species and 11 individuals. The most insistent mobber was a Golden-crowned War bler. Two bird species dived at close range of the moving pitviper: the Sayaca Tanager and the Short-crested Flycatcher, which dived at the snake 2 and 1 times respectively. The snake seemed undisturbed by the harassing birds, but stopped moving after each of the dives. The Jararaca Lancehead occasionally forage at daytime, climb on vegetation, and prey on birds. Thus, it may actually pose a predation risk to the mobbing birds when they are nesting in the vicinity or when they are much distracted while harassing. KEY-WORDS: Anti-predator behaviour, snake-mobbing, Atlantic Forest birds. Mobbing is a type of anti-predator behaviour displayed abandoned building (22°26'20" S, 44°36'28" W, 1073 m by potential prey animals, vertebrates from fish to bir ds above sea level) at the edge of the montane Atlantic forest and mammals (Curio 1978, Ostreiher 2003). While in the Itatiaia range in southeastern Brazil, on 28 March mobbing, birds and mammals utter alarm calls and 2014 at midday. Throughout the observation I used t he approaches (sometimes charging or diving) or follow “ad libitum” sampling method, which is adequate to the predator from close range (Owings & Owings 1979, record rare events (Altmann 1974). Ten digital photos Ostreiher 2003). Mobbing individuals may be in danger of the mobbed snake and three mobber bird species while displaying this behaviour and several instances of are housed as vouchers in the Museu de Zoologia, actual preying on these individuals are recorded (Sordahl Universidade Estadual de Campinas (ZUEC). 1990, Corrêa & Coutinho 1997, Motta-Junior. 2007, Following the insistent and noisy birdcalls Foerster 2008). broadcasted from a small group of treelets up to 3 m Mobbing by birds is directed mostly at avian raptors tall I found a mobbed Jararaca Lancehead, an adult male such as hawks, falcons, and owls [e.g. Altmann 1956, about 1 m total length. The snake was slow ly ascending Sordahl 1990, Motta-Junior. 2007 (review for Brazil in one of the treelets (Figure 1a) and attracted a varied bird Cunha & Fontenelle 2014)]. Records of bird mobbing assemblage composed of 8 species and 11 individuals. snakes are scarcer than those of mobbing birds of prey, and The most insistent mobber was a Golden-crowned involve snakes that are potential or actual bird predators Warbler (Basileuterus culicivorus), which closely followed (Blem 1979, Francis et al. 1989, Matheus et al.1996, the snake from a distance of about 15-20 cm (Figure 1a) Mercado et al. 2002, Sazima & Marques 2007). I found hopping from one branch to another. A Ruby-crowned only four records of birds mobbing vipers (Mounts 1927, Tanager (Tachyphonus coronatus) male (Figure 1b) was the Buskirk 1981, Bussière & Underhill 2012, Bussière noisiest bird within the assemblage, calling persistently. 2013), all of which prey on birds even if occasionally The other birds mobbing the pitviper were two Sayaca (e.g. Garton & Dimmick 1969, Mehrtens 1987). Herein Tanagers (Tangara sayaca), two Pallid Spinetails I report on what seems to be the first recor d of birds (Cranioleuca pallida), one Short-crested Flycatcher mobbing a South American viper. (Myiarchus ferox), two Bananaquits (Coereba fl aveola), a A bird assemblage was recorded while mobbing Violet-capped Woodnymph (Thalur ania glaucopis) male, an adult Jararaca Lancehead (Bothrops jararaca) near an and a White-barred Piculet (Picumnus cirratus) male, A bird assemblage mobs an adult pitviper in southeastern Brazil Ivan Sazima an apparently uncommon bird in mobbing assemblages moved to an adjacent treelet and from there came down (Figure 1c). and became out of sight within a bush. As the mobbing Only two bird species dived at close range (20-30 was already in course when I arrived at the scene, the total cm) of the moving pitviper: the Sayaca Tanager and the duration of the mobbing behaviour remains unknown. Short-crested Flycatcher, which dived at the snake 2 and Eight minutes elapsed from my noticing the noisy bird 1 times respectively. The remaining birds followed the assemblage to their dispersing (12:08-12:16 h). I searched snake and uttered alarm calls or stayed silent and watched the treelet where the snake was mobbed for any bird nest the snake’s progress on the branches. The pitviper seemed but found none. However, I found an occupied nest undisturbed by the mobbing bird group, although it of the Sayaca Tanager on a palm about 4 m tall in the stopped tongue flicking and moving after each of the vicinity (7 m apart) of the treelets where the bird group three dives. The assembled birds dispersed after the viper mobbed the snake. b c FIGURE 1. Birds mobbing an adult Jararaca Lancehead (Bothrops jararaca) male. A Golden-crowned Warbler (Basileuterus culicivorus) close to the head of the ascending snake (a); the noisiest mobber, a Ruby-crowned Tanager (Tachyphonus coronatus) male (b); a White-barred Piculet (Picumnus cirratus) male (c), a seemingly uncommon mobber. Photos: Ivan Sazima Revista Brasileira de Ornitologia, 23(1), 2015 A bird assemblage mobs an adult pitviper in southeastern Brazil Ivan Sazima Blem, R. 1979. Predation of black rat snakes on a bank swallow The Golden-crowned War bler and the Bananaquit, colony. Wilson Bulletin, 91(1): 135-137. as well as several species of tanagers, tyrant-flycatchers, Buskirk, W. H. 1981. Ochraceous wren fails to respond to mobbing and hummingbirds are already recorded mobbing snakes calls in an heterospecific flock. Wi lson Bulletin, 93(2): 278-279. in other Neotropical areas (Buskirk 1981, Matheus et al. Bussière E. & Underhill, L. G. 2012. Snake in the grass…birds mob 1996, Mercado et al. 2002, Sazima & Marques 2007). puff adder. Orni thological Observations, 3: 53-55. Bussière E. 2013. Two Kalahari scrub robins mobbing a puff adder. Indeed, Bananaquits were consistently recorded mobbing Ornithological Observations, 4: 168-170. the Puerto Rican Boa (Epicrates portoricensis) by Mercado Corrêa, H. K. M. & Coutinho, P. E. G. 1997. Fatal attack of a pit et al. (2002). Birds that forage in groups and explore viper, Bothrops jararaca, on an infant buffy tufted ear marmoset varied vegetation strata, such as tanagers and Bananaquits (Callithrix aurita). Primates, 38(2): 215-217. Cunha, F. C. R. & Fontenelle, J. C. R. 2014. Registro de tumulto usually do, would find and mob arboreal snakes with em aves no Brasil: uma revisão usando a plataforma Wikiaves. frequency (Buskirk 1981, Matheus et al. 1996, Mercado Atualidades Ornitológicas, 177(1): 46-53. et al. 2002, Sazima & Marques 2007). On the other Curio, E. 1978. The adaptive significance of avian mobbing hand, only two species of woodpeckers, the Puerto Rican I. Teleonomic hypotheses and predictions. Zeitschrift für Tierpsychologie, 48(2): 175-183. Woodpecker (Melanerpes portoricensis) and the White- Foerster, S. 2008. Two incidents of venomous snakebite on juvenile barred Piculet are recorded mobbing a snake (Mercado et blue and Sykes monkeys (Cercopithecus mitis stuhlmanni and C. m. al. 2002, this paper). Apparently, woodpeckers play only albogularis). Primates, 49(4): 300-303. occasionally the role of a snake mobber. Francis, A. M.; Hailman, J. P. & Woolfenden, G. E. 1989. Mobbing The Jararaca Lancehead is mostly terrestrial and by Florida scrub jays: behaviour, sexual asymmetry, role of helpers and ontogeny. Animal Behaviour, 38(5): 795-816. nocturnal, and forages on rodents by ambush, but may Garton, J. S. & Dimmick, R. W. 1969. Food habits of the copperhead forage actively at daytime, climb on vegetation, and in middle Tennessee. Journal of the Tennessee Academy of Science, prey occasionally on birds (Sazima 1992). Thus, the 44(4): 113-117. mobbed pitviper might actually pose a predation risk to Greene, H. W. 2007. Snakes, the evolution of mystery in nature. the assembled birds when they are nesting in the vicinity Berkeley: University of California Press. Matheus. J. C.; Wittmann, U.; Olaf, J.; Leutfeld, M. & or when they are much distracted by mobbing (Sordahl Schuchmann, K-L. 1996. Reactions of birds to nestling 1990, Matheus et al. 1996). predation by a snake. Ornitologia Neotropical, 7(2): 163-164. Field biologists and ornithologists in particular are Mehrtens J. M. 1987. Living snakes of the world in color. New York: generally aware of snakebite risks while working in the Sterling Publishers. Mercado, J. E.; Terranova, E. & Wunderle Jr., J. M. 2002. Avian field. As all t he four viper species mobbed by birds (Mounts mobbing of the Puerto Rican boa (Epicrates inornatus). Caribbean 1927, Buskirk 1981, Bussière & Underhill 2012, Bussière Journal of Science, 38(1-2): 125-126. 2013, this paper) are common and involved in snakebites Motta-Junior, J. C. 2007. Ferruginous pygmy-owl (Glaucidium (Greene 2007), I suggest here that paying attention to brasilianum) predation on a mobbing fork-tailed Flycatcher unusual movements and/or alarm calls of birds at a given (Tyrannus savana) in south-east Brazil. Biota Neotropica, 7(2): 321-324. site may lessen the risk of this accident type. Mounts, B. T. 1927. Birds excited by a snake. The Wilson Bulletin, 39(2): 108-109. Ostreiher, R. 2003. Is mobbing altruistic or selfish behaviour? Animal ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Behaviour, 66(1): 145-149. Owings, D. H. & Owings, S. C. 1979. Snake-directed behavior by black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus). Zeitschrift für I thank Marlies Sazima for help in the field and loving Tierpsychologie, 49(1): 35-54. support, Giulia B. D’Angelo for useful comments on the Sazima, I. & Marques, O. A. V. 2007. A reliable customer: fidelity to first draft, and two anonymous reviewers for improving a foraging site by an actively searching neotropical colubrid snake. the final manuscript. Herpetological Bulletin, 99: 36-38. Sazima, I. 1992. Natural history of the jararaca pitviper, Bothrops jararaca, in southeastern Brazil, p. 199-216 In: Campbell, J. A. & Brodie, Jr., E. D. (eds.): Biology of the pitvipers. Tyler, Texas: REFERENCES Selva Press. Sordahl, T. A. 1990. The risk of avian mobbing and distraction Altmann, J. 1974. Observational study of behaviour: sampling behavior: an anecdotal review. Wilson Bulletin, 102(2): 349-352. methods. Behaviour, 49(3): 227-267. Altmann, S. A. 1956. Avian mobbing behavior and predator recognition. The Condor, 58(4): 241-253. Associate Editor: Cristiano Schetini de Azevedo Revista Brasileira de Ornitologia, 23(1), 2015
Ornithology Research – Springer Journals
Published: Mar 1, 2015
Keywords: Anti-predator behaviour; snake-mobbing; Atlantic Forest birds
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