Friday, 27 June 2014

A match made in Brazil - Cheeky bird hitches free ride & meal on back of giant rodent

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Capybara and Cattle Tyrant - a match made in Brazil
Words by Angela Brennan. As published in various media June 2014 (Guardian)

A CHEEKY bird hitching a ride and free meal on the back of a giant rodent has been captured by a wildlife photographer. Paul Williams, 34, caught the Cattle Tyrant on the back of a pig-sized capybara, the largest rodent in the world.

As the name suggests, the Cattle Tyrants sometimes perch on the backs of cattle and horses to catch insects flushed by the livestock. But this cheeky bird was also snapped feasting on the semi aquatic mammal’s fur - possibly for ticks.

The giant rodent disturbed insects as it grazed on grass, which were then quickly snapped up by the somersaulting bird.

Paul, who works for the BBC Natural History Unit, said: “It was quite funny to see this little bird riding on top of this massive rodent. It was as if the bird was commanding it to march on, and whispering directions in it’s ear”

“He looked quite happy hitching a free ride and getting a meal. He ate from the capybara’s fur then snapped up any insects the rodent disturbed while eating amongst the grass and water hyacinth.” 

“You could see the bird jumping up in the air and doing somersaults to catch the insects. I thought that it was quite a sight, but judging by the capybara’s expression he didn’t agree”

“This sort of relationship is quite a common occurrence and several species of birds increase their feeding rate by associating with capybara or other large mammals.”

Capybaras are closely related to guinea pigs but weigh in at around 55 kg and grow up to a metre long. They live in grassy wetland areas or close to rivers and can gather in herds of hundreds. They carry out most of their activities on land, using water as a refuge to cool down and to escape their main predator the jaguar. But even in the water they arn’t safe, with 10 million Caiman eager to make a meal of a young Capybara. These giant rodents are also eaten by humans, and some South American Catholics allow themselves to eat salted capybara meat during Lent, because they are aquatic animals.  

Paul, from Bristol, travels across the world to film wildlife. He said the Pantanal in Brazil, where he took the shots, was probably one of the best places to see wildlife in Brazil, and South America. The whole wetland is almost as big as the United Kingdom and spreads more than 195,000 square kilometres across Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay. Like the Capybara and jaguar many of the animals and plants are giants, including the jabiru bird, giant otters and water lilies.

Paul's images can be seen on his website

Thursday, 26 June 2014

How does Suarez stack up against other South American animals?

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Suarez is just a putty tat! 
But how does he stack up against other South American animals?

Uruguay striker Luis Suarez has been suspended from all football-related activity for four months for biting Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini, but he's just a putty tat when compared to South America's biggest cat - the Jaguar.

Jaguar - Strongest bite of all cats

Strongest bite of all cats - twice the power of a lion. 
They can pierce turtle shells or kill by crushing a skull. 

"It’s one of the few times that I’ve looked an animal in the eye knowing that I was the prey."

Why go to Brazil to watch football when you can watch a real match... just keep your distance!

The tourists went far too close for comfort. 
Jaguar means ‘he who kills in one leap’. 

As well as tourists Jaguar also eat... 
other animals with bigger bites than Suarez...

Caiman crocodiles
There's 10 million in the Pantanal

 They like to eat giant catfish

and their incredible bite makes short work of giant snails

... and baby Capybara
Capybara are the largest rodent in the world
Even the babies are as big as a pig

They have a good pair of gnashers - but they mostly use them for chomping grass

They spend much of their time in the water to escape the jaguar...

so too does the Giant Otter
They like to play in the water

But when they get out they don't like crocodiles on their patch

They also have a good pair of teeth

Perfect for crunching fish.

Meanwhile... Suarez is just a muzzled football player.