[midvalleybirds] Hooded Merganser eats rough skinned newt (?)

Lisa Millbank millbank.lisa at gmail.com
Fri Jan 25 19:24:39 PST 2019

Hi Frank and all,

That's a really unusual thing to see, it always seems like those newts
don't have much to fear except for Common Garter Snakes.  A photographer in
British Columbia got this shot of a female Hooded Merganser with a
Rough-skinned Newt in her bill.

The photographer provided some information about the variability of newt
toxicity, to the extent that newts in some parts of BC are totally
nontoxic.  Oregon newts are probably more toxic on average, but maybe this
merganser knows how to wash off some of the toxin, or she can detect the
level of toxicity somehow and pick less dangerous ones.

Lisa Millbank

On Fri, Jan 25, 2019 at 6:02 PM Frank Kolwicz <fhkolwicz1 at gmail.com> wrote:

> I'm not sure of the newt, but it had a dark back and bright orange belly
> (photos).
> The Hoodie female was observed chewing on the newt for some minutes (I
> could get the time from images, if you want) continuously thrashing it
> in the water until it was finally consumed. After swallowing the bird
> was drinking every couple of seconds for a couple of minutes (best
> estimate), but didn't seem affected during observation for an additional
> 10 minutes, so I guess it didn't get poisoned. Perhaps the extended
> tenderizing/washing removed the skin secretions enough for the bird to
> eat it.
> My only recollected observation of a bird/newt gustatorial interaction
> was with a Great Egret which was immediately repelled by the newt and
> dropped it within seconds of picking it up. The Egret also kept shaking
> it's head and dipping into the water for at least a minute afterwards.
> Hoodies, si/Egrets no! for newt meals.
> Frank
> in Monmouth
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