Osprey, Mono Lake © Robert Sommers 2023

Monday, November 16, 2015

Birds and buckshot

I belong to a large online birders group. I get messages daily along these lines; LindaLou found a Red Pharalope over at Obsidian Butte or did you get a load of the gams on that evening grosbeak at Prado Dam? I like the chatter, birders are attentive, invariably nice and quite devoted.

I got this chain of messages the other day that gave me pause:

I decided to post because nobody else has.  

The San Jacinto Wildlife Area Facebook page sports some pictures and video of a swan there today.  Of course, if it sticks around until tomorrow it will be someone's dinner, since SJWA has a hunting day tomorrow.  I wouldn't even start to try to identify the species of swan.  


Redlands, CA

Based on what I am reading its illegal to shoot one in California. I hope the hunters know that.


Riverside, CA

Swan has not yet been re-found as of 8:30.


San Bernardino

I have birded the gigantic San Jacinto Wildlife Area several times.  19,000 acres with 9 thousand acres of restored habitat, it is an ideal place to bird. The first time with Ken happened to be the opening day of duck season. Bad move.

As you may remember if you read my earlier post, two visiting populations (besides the birds) are allowed to use the facility at the same time, those who like to watch and take pictures of birds and those that want to kill birds. Kind of a strange deal; observe our fine feathered friends on Tuesday, blast them on Wednesday and Saturday.

It is an odd marriage frankly. While our interactions with the hunters were for the most part pleasant, they seemed to take great pleasure in driving by as fast as they could in their large pickups, alpha males displaying their testosterone by the size of their dust storm. Blasting shotguns put the birds we did see plainly on edge.

But after getting this email I got to thinking. Is the hunter/birder interplay not a classic parasitic relationship or does it not have the makings of one? Birders find rare swan, hunters monitor birders online communication, hunters shoot swan. Could birders unwittingly be helping hunters target birds and waterfowl in a strangely symbiotic fashion? Now my question is purely hypothetical, I have no knowledge of hunters monitoring birding sites but in this world of expanded social media it is certainly a possibility.

In nature species that are mutually dependent are said to have a symbiotic relationship. Symbiosis describes close interactions between two or more different species. There are three main kinds of symbiotic relationships, Mutualism, Commensalism & Parasitism.  In a mutual relationship, both parties get something out of the deal and nobody is harmed. The above scenario is not a mutual one because if a hunter shoots a swan, birders can no longer enjoy its presence.

In a commensalistic relationship, one party benefits and the other is not significantly affected. Parasitism is where one organism or party benefits and causes harm to the other organism or party. That would be the relation in our hypothetical if the hunters were actually using birders to birddog their game.

There is another symbiotic relationship called amensalism, a relationship between two species of organisms in which the individuals of one species adversely affect those of the other and are unaffected themselves. Amensalism works in two ways, competition and antibiosis. The latter occurs when the dominant organism kills the other by chemical or pathogenic means.

Symbiotic relationships can be obligate or facultative. Obligate symbiosis is when two organisms are in a symbiotic relationship because they can't survive without each other. Facultative symbiosis is when the species live together by choice.

Competition is another type of symbiosis as is resource partitioning. We'll leave you those and we'll take these...Another type is neutralism, basically staying out of each others way. That is probably the best paradigm for birders and hunters. Hope the swan made it.

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