The toads’ annual breeding party has been running for days (and nights!) at my pond, and as usual the hapless toads are easy prey for a family of Crows that has a long tradition of exploiting this event. This year’s hunters have revised the time-honored practice of gutting the toads right on the dike, then extracting some choice organ (the liver, perhaps), and leaving the rest of the corpse, including the toxic skin, exposed in the grass. Instead, they’re flying off with the entire living toad, still kicking. They fly with it by a circuitous route to a secluded forest area some 500m distant, where, as I imagine, someone is sitting a nest. I observed the carrying flight three times this morning, and by stationing myself in a sort of blind I then watched an actual catch at the water’s edge. The toad was grabbed by one leg, and the Crow immediately took flight with it. Just at a guess, I’m thinking the advantage of doing it this way is that the toad will have no opportunity to jump back into the pond before it can be dispatched. Or perhaps the hunters are delivering the toads to an experienced elder who knows (better than they) how to separate the edible from the inedible parts?
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