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Birds & Alligators

March 7, 2016

Though mortal enemies, alligators and water birds team up against raccoons in the Florida Everglades.



Alligators and birds unite. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

(Sounds of the Everglades)

A hungry raccoon swims through a swamp in Florida’s Everglades on a mission to devour the eggs and chicks of water birds nesting above, when  – SNAP! – the crushing jaws of an alligator end the masked bandit’s plan.

LUCAS NELL (University of Florida):

Alligators are very happy to eat a raccoon.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission cropped

An alligator attacks a raccoon on a bait station in southwest Florida. (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission)


University of Florida’s Lucas Nell reports in PLOS One that the birds and reptiles have a mutually beneficial – if unlikely – alliance. The birds get protection from the mammalian predators, which normally destroy entire colonies. And the alligators benefit by dining not only on those predators, but also on the abundant aquatic life that thrives on the birds’ droppings. As well as unlucky chicks that sometimes fall from the nests.


Colony alligators weigh, on average, 6 pounds more than a similar site that does not have a nesting colony.


I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.


Story by Susanne Bard