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

Linda Fink linda at fink.com
Fri Jan 25 20:57:53 PST 2019


Think I wrote to this list a few years ago about a Great Blue Heron that 
swallowed a newt by our pond. Don't know if it had any ill effects... 
took a long time to swallow but didn't try to get it back out. Can a 
bird detect the toxin by taste?

Linda Fink near Grand Ronde

On 1/25/2019 7:24 PM, Lisa Millbank wrote:
> 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.
> https://www.flickr.com/photos/chantaljacques2012/33618434010/in/photostream/
> 
> 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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