LIKE HAVING DOLPHINS AROUND
behavior can be intriguing. And you dont have to be a scientist
to enjoy observing animals and speculating about their behavior, as
the following inquiry proves.
My wife and I recently watched a pelican and a dolphin engage in what
may have been play or may have been competition for food. The pelican
would occasionally land where the dolphin was surfacing, making a great
splash in the water as it landed. The dolphin would then swim away,
surfacing every 10 yards or so. Then they would repeat the performance.
We watched for several minutes as the pelican continued to follow the
dolphin. They worked their way from one side of the lagoon to the other
until they were out of sight. Incidentally, two strangers on the bridge
with us also watched the dolphin-pelican show and the four of us enjoyed
speculating about the unusual (to us) display. Have you ever heard of
Many animals engage in play, especially young mammals, including primates
and members of the dog and cat families. Dolphins are also known for
playful antics, but a grown pelican does not strike me as one to participate
in such behavior. My guess was that it had something to do with the
pelican getting a meal prepared by someone else. To confirm this assumption,
I checked with Meg Hoyle of Botany Bay Ecotours, who spends most of
her time around coastal creatures and was likely to be familiar with
Meg has seen both pelicans and laughing gulls following dolphins for
a free meal. She says, The gulls will even try to land on a dolphin's
If youre trying to take food from another animal, why not try
to get as close to its mouth as you can? According to Meg, The
dolphins are probably chasing fish up to the surface or using bubble
net fishing, corralling the fish and then chasing them up. The birds
are taking advantage of the dolphins work.
net feeding is a strategy used underwater by some whales and dolphins
in which a stream of bubbles is forced out of their blowhole as they
encircle a school of fish. Trapped or confused, the fish are no match
for the fast-moving mammals and become easy prey. In some areas, dolphins
will use their tails to stir up a curtain of mud to corral the fish.
And in some coastal regions dolphins use another remarkable fish-catching
behavior called strand feeding. A team of dolphins will force a school
of fish toward a sandy beach or mudflat until some jump from the water
and are stranded ashore. The dolphins will then glide out of the water
and eat the fish that are flopping around. But the dolphins are not
the only beneficiaries of this tactic. When dolphins strand feed,
egrets, pelicans, herons and gulls will wait on the bank and grab any
fish they can.
made a fascinating observation about the birds during this prey-gathering
behavior by one of the wiliest predators of the sea. The birds stand
on shore and walk or waddle to the exact spot where the dolphins will
emerge from the water. She speculates that the birds may hear the underwater
whistles the dolphins make right before charging the bank. She notes
that the birds can be an early indicator of where dolphins will emerge
from the water for someone wanting to watch or film strand feeding.
unusual animal behaviors are observed and reported every day by people
who are not trained scientists but simply nature enthusiasts. You may
not be able to see pelicans and dolphins where you live, but I guarantee
you that some interesting interactions are going on around you all year
long. Even ordinary backyard birds, squirrels and insects have something
to offer a careful observer. All of them engage in some kind of interesting
or puzzling behavior.
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