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Rails following snakes: predator-response behaviour, potential prey, prey-flushing or curiosity?
journal contributionposted on 2013-06-01, 00:00 authored by D Cutten, G Goodyear, T Tarrant, James FitzsimonsJames Fitzsimons, Grant Palmer
Although snakes are both predators and prey of birds in the Rallidae family in other parts of the world, there are few documented observations of interactions between these groups in Australia. Here we describe four separate observations of Buff-banded Rails Gallirallus philippensis following snakes in a deliberate manner. Because of the large size of the different snake species encountered by the Buff- banded Rails during our observations, we consider that it is unlikely that the snakes were viewed as potential prey. The behaviours observed in our accounts, and of flufftails Sarothrura spp. in Africa, suggest that rails are aware of the predatory threat of snakes, and follow them to ensure that they move outside the rails’ area of concern. We suggest that this behaviour is likely to be a deliberate response to encountering a potential (or perceived) terrestrial predator, such as a snake, or that the snake’s movements potentially flush prey suitable for Buff-banded Rails.