Saturday, September 20, 2014

Commensalism: Wood Stork and herons cooperate

In late afternoon I looked out the back window and saw a Wood Stork on the lawn of the small park diagonally across our lake. Its wings were fully extended, probably drying off after a brief downpour. By the time I got my camera, the stork had partially closed its wings. 

Wood Stork 20140912

Next to the stork, an immature Tricolored Heron also rested and preened. 

Wood Stork and Tricolored Heron 20140912

Suddenly a Great Egret flew in and settled at the edge of the water near the heron. Both started running to the right and the stork rushed over to join them. 

Stork and herons 20140912

I could see the water was disturbed by a school of small fish. The trio began feeding together, and they moved further down the shoreline. 

Stork and herons 2-20140912

Then the egret seemed to see another school of fish back the other way. Both herons took flight, with the stork running along behind them. 

Stork and herons relocate 2-20140912

Stork and herons relocate 3-20140912

Again they fished together... 

Stork and herons relocate 4-20140912

...until once again they relocated to the edge of the lake immediately in back of our home. They were so close that I could not fit them all in a single frame with my 420 mm f/5.6 telephoto lens system, but I got some good shots when they passed along in front of me as I stood on the patio. 

The Tricolored Heron led the charge excitedly, the feathers on its head erect.

Tricolored Heron immature 3-20130912

Tricolored Heron immature 6-20130912

The stork and egret were close behind.

Great Egret and Wood Stork 3-20140912

Great Egret and Wood Stork 20140912

The egret watched, ready to pounce on any fish that appeared as the stork shaded the surface and stirred the water.

Great Egret and Wood Stork 2-20140912

As before, the egret sighted another school back where they had previously been fishing, and the trio flew over there. 

Stork and herons again relocate 3-20140912

I believe this is an example of commensalism, with all three species deriving mutual benefit of the others-- the sharp vision of the herons helped find the prey and the stork stirred the water with its foot as it probed, driving the fish out of hiding and thus aiding the herons. 

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  1. love this! so great to see them all benefit together.

  2. Beautiful birds. It looks like some kind of team work.

  3. Great observation and photos, looks like a successful cooparation

  4. What a wonderful pos but then, so many of your's are. It all goes to show that co-operation is so much more beneficial than fighting over the food source or anything else.

  5. Wow what a treat to see all 3 birds together like that. That wood stork is very unique looking.

  6. Awesome captures. Gosh that stork is fantastic!

  7. This is all so incredible!! So many beauties all in one area like this....super. I so enjoyed it.

    Thank you for sharing your link this weekend at I'd Rather B Birdin'

  8. How fun to see all of that right there on your property! Love it!

  9. Wonderful series of images of the bird.

  10. How special to see them all get along together!

  11. Great photos! Hey, there's nothing like teamwork! :-)

  12. You are so lucky. What an amazing set of photos here showing them do what they do best. The Stork is such a harsh contrast to the delicate forms of the Heron and Egret. Very very nice......would love to see a Wood Stork in its element.

  13. Great photos and very interesting to see cooperation like that between the three species.

  14. Great to see all three together for comparison.

  15. Great captures of the threesome! They are awesome birds.

  16. HI Gary great to see the comparison of size between these birds and see the action on the video

  17. Amazing! I love seeing different species of birds together, but never before thought of the way they could benefit each other in this way, making use of their separate "talents'..... How wonderful to have this happen in your own backyard. Thank you for sharing this!

  18.'s a nice story too.... maybe they are just three little bachelors ...lonely and hanging out with buddies....

  19. Very interesting series, Ken! Wonderful photographs.

    I wonder if the term also applies to birders? A group standing on the shore with scopes and a shout goes out: "Phalarope!". The group rushes to the spot. Another call goes out further along the shore: "Bar-tailed Godwit!". The group sprints to the new spot. :)

  20. What an amazing phenomenon to observe! Great photos.

  21. Beautiful set of images!! I couldn't help thinking the first couple of Wood Stork photos looked like he was saying "You want a piece of me?" :) Good to see them all getting along.


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