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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