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The Hippo and the Grey Heron- a Symbiotic Relationships
The Hippo and the Heron.
As keen bird watchers we use every opportunity to travel and visit new and old places. Our recent trip to Swaziland gave us the opportunity of re-visiting one of my favourite places, Mkhuze Game Reserve. At this small Kwazulu-Natal park there are several good hides and they work well when conditions are right. As part of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, Mkhuze is on the coastal plain and receives mainly summer rainfall. Being mid- winter at present the water holes are very dry, but my favorite place Nsumo Pan, due to the low water levels has good exposed mud banks that draw many waders. We enjoyed watching a Black-winged Stilt and Great White Egret fishing in tandem.From experience they have learned that working together they have a better chance of catching fish than if they go it alone.
The Hippos in the pan are always a delight and as we were getting ready to leave after an hour or two of birding, two birds, a Grey Heron and a Little Egret decided to use some of the Hippos as a base to find supper. Suddenly one of those interesting moments emerged as at first the Hippos seemed quite content to be used as a fishing platform but then decided enough is enough and decided to move the Heron and Egret away by either submerging or waving their heads in the air.
This is another good example of the symbiotic relationships that exist in the bird world.The Heron can often be seen cleaning the Hippo of Ticks. The bird that provides this service most often is the Ox-pecker who assists a variety of animals and specially the Buffalo and Giraffe with the removal of pesky Ticks. The Cattle Egret locally known as "Tick Birds" perform the same service to cattle and some of the wild antelopes and other game. Obviously the food that the ticks provide is the reward.
It has also been reported that birds warn animals of approaching danger and birds feed on the insects that live in the animal droppings. In nature the birds have learned to co-exist with the animals. If only we as humans can learn to do this more the world would be a better place.