Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Predation of Ambystoma salamanders by a Buteo

I received this email from the local birding listserve. It documents a very unusual occurance - a Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) feeding on Ambystoma salamanders (Spotted and Jefferson's). Check it out, including the photos:
After a slow start to the spring and several weekends (the last two) during which I was away, this morning (Wed) I finally was able to watch the Red Shouldered Hawk that has been historically nesting in our area and feeding from our pond. What does he feed on? Jefferson's and Spotted Salamanders! Apparently feeding on Salamanders is quite unusual and not documented in the literature, according to a researcher at SUNY Binghamton who studies Ambystoma salamanders (Dale Madison). There was a freshly killed salamander on one of the bird boxes beside the pond (leaves and a tail visible), which the hawk uses as a perch. The bird sat for at least 20 minutes surveying the scene and made a few forays by either flying over the pond and dipping in with feet or by landing in the water on the bank of the pond (which has alot of water flowing over right now) and stomping around in water up to it's ankles while picking up leaves, looking for food. Finally, when I had literally just given up and started to turn away (to go to work!), the hawk flew from the bird box perch to just over the edge of the south end of the pond - out of sight for about 30 seconds before it came back up with a Spotted Salamander in its talons! It proceeded to eat the creature while perched on a pondside bench! Here us a website where you can view the out of focus (through the scope through the window) photos I took to document all of this. I'm not proud - I know these are not good photos, but they are good enough to identify the bird and the prey.

Has anyone else seen or heard of Redshouldered Hawks feeding on Ambystoma salamanders (either spotted or Jefferson's in our area)? I'm actually trying to document this enough to publish a note with Dale Madison at SUNY Binghamton and he was wondering if this has been seen by other birders? I have lots of observations from last spring and am trying to get more this year as well.

If anyone has similar sightings (especially documented ones), I'll pass them on.

1 comment:

  1. I don't know why it would be so unusual for a RSHA to dine on a salamander. It's small, it hangs out at the water's edge and it squiggles. Sounds like the perfect lunch for this particular species of bird....m.