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May 09, 2005

Birds Of Iraq: The Little Egret And Common Snipe

A two for one special today from LTC Bob, a veritable Laurel and Hardy of the natural world. First, a Little Egret, obviously, showing a glimpse of its distinctive yellow foot. It's one of the more flamboyant birds of the avian family, at least when it comes to hunting technique.

Little Egrets are the liveliest hunters among herons and egrets, with a wide variety of techniques. They may patiently stalk prey in shallow waters. Or stand on one leg and stir the mud with the other to scare up prey. Or better yet, stand on one leg and wave the other bright yellow foot over the water surface to lure aquatic prey into range.

In peninsular Malaysia, some have been observed hunting near floating vegetation (like palm fronds), possibly looking for prey attracted to the shade. They may crouch with their wings slightly outstretched, either to reduce the sun's glare or perhaps to create shade to attract underwater prey. They may also enthusiastically rush around in shallow waters perhaps to flush out prey. Little Egrets usually hunt alone. Where they hunt in a group, they are well spaced out, each individual aggressively defending a feeding spot. However, they roost communally, often with other herons and egrets, usually in mangroves. They also roost in reedbeds or snags over open water.

Secondly, and, somewhat less obviously, a Common Snipe, a bird so retiring in nature and adept at camouflage that the very act of hunting them is defined as "A futile search or endeavor."

How much that definition owes to the once-ubiquitous practical joke I'll leave as an exercise for the reader.

Regardless of whether one ones goes out at night with gunnysack in hand or in the daytime armed with binoculars, one's chances of seeing any Snipe at all are low to begin with, even when they're right in front of you. When it came to the individual above, LTC Bob notes that "I didnít even see him till I got home and looked at the pictures."

Were I he, I'd still add "Common Snipe" to the life list. After all, such lists are a compilation of species seen, not necessarily species perceived.

There are two nominate races of Common Snipe; G. gallinago faeroeenis, found in the islands of the northern Atlantic, G. gallinago delicata, the ostensible target of pillowcase-toting Boy Scouts all over the U.S.--considered a separate species by some--but the ones in Iraq belong are all members of the Eurasian race, Gallinago gallinago...gallinago or "Hen hen hen" to Latin lovers everywhere. As the appellation "Common" implies, if one is going to spot a Snipe of any sort, it will likely be a member of the triple hens.


Previously: The Night Heron

Next: Who knows?

See Also: Reptiles of Iraq, Arthropods of Iraq, Fishes of Iraq

Posted by Bigwig at May 9, 2005 02:51 PM | TrackBack
Postscript:
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