A few days ago, WC was boating along the Rio Pixaim in the central Pantanal, a vast seasonal swamp in southwestern Brazil. The Rio Pixaim, towards the end of the dry season in mid-October, is more of a slough, really, But it teems with wildlife.
Among the critters was the very handsome Rufescent Tiger Heron.
They are pretty common in the Pantanal, foraging for fish, lizards and larger bugs. They build pretty primitive stick nests where they raise a single kid. The kids are considerably less handsome than the adults.
Still, ugly ducklings and all that. And, as events proved, Tiger Herons are … er, tigers … when it comes to defending their homely hatchlings. Because a Southern Caracara landed on the riverbank not ten feet from the Herons’ nest.
The Southern Caracara is a combination predator and scavenger in the Pantanal ecology, kind of a cross between a Common Raven and a Red-tailed Hawk. A fledgling Tiger Heron would make a fine meal to a Southern Caracara. This bird’s bill is all about shredding.
The Southern Caracara, probably by keying off the boat and our excitement at seeing the nest, had spotted the baby Rufescent Tiger Heron. Happily, the kid had a parent armed with a seven inch long stiletto bill who stepped up to defend her chick.
The hatchling has hunkered down behind the adult, and the adult has fluffed her feathers out, making herself twice her normal size, and gave the Caracara the stink eye. Everything about her posture and attitude dare the Caracara to try something.
And the Caracara didn’t. After looking a few more times, he flew off looking for a less heavily defended meal.
Family value in the Pantanal. With a happy ending. Can’t beat that for a Friday.