Apparent siblicide and attempted cannibalism among Green Heron (Butorides virescens) nestlings in Birama Swamp, Cuba

Dennis Denis, Hanser Fortes

Abstract


Siblicide is frequent in species of birds exhibiting brood reduction but rarely includes cannibalism. This paper reports an apparent case of siblicide and attempted cannibalism in the Green Heron (Butorides virescens) in Birama Swamp, Cuba, on 26 June 2006. We found a nest with three nestlings in which the smallest nestling was dead and partially swallowed by one of its siblings. When the corpse was extracted from the sibling to avoid its suffocation, the two surviving nestlings fought with each other to swallow it again. There was no evidence of starvation or food limitation, and both nestlings grew continuously during the next 5 d. This is the first report of apparent siblicide and attempted cannibalism in this species, which does not exhibit the usual characteristics of brood reducing species of herons and egrets.

 

El fratricidio es frecuente en especies reduccionistas de nidada pero muy raramente incluye el canibalismo. Este trabajo reporta un caso aparente de fraticidio y un intento de canibalismo en Aguaitacaimán (Butorides virescens) en la ciénaga de Birama, Cuba, encontrado el 26 de junio del 2006. Se encontró un nido de tres pichones donde el mediano tenía al más pequeño parcialmente tragado. Al retirársele el cuerpo para evitarle la asfixia ambos pichones sobrevivientes compitieron por tragar al cuerpo del hermano. No existieron evidencias de hambruna en el nido, ni limitación en el alimento y los pichones continuaron desarrollándose de forma normal durante los siguientes 5 días. Este es el primer registro de fraticidio aparente y canibalismo en esta especie que no posee marcadas las características propias de las especies reduccionistas de la familia.

 

Le fratricide est fréquent chez les espèces d’oiseaux qui montrent des réductions de nichées mais le cannibalisme reste rare. Ce papier rapporte un cas probable de fratricide et de tentative de cannibalisme chez le Héron vert (Butorides virescens) survenu le 26 juin 2006 dans le Marais de Birama à Cuba. Nous avons trouvé un nid avec 3 oisillons dans lequel le plus jeune était mort et partiellement mangé par un de ses frères. Quand le corps fut extrait du nid pour éviter sa pourriture, les deux poussins survivants se sont battus entre eux pour essayer de le manger à nouveau. Il n’existait aucun élément indicatif de famine ou de problème dans le nid et les deux oisillons ont continué à de développer pendant les 5 jours suivants. Il s’agit de la première observation d’un apparent fratricide et de tentative de cannibalisme chez cette espèce qui ne présente pas les caractéristiques habituelles de réduction de nichée des hérons et aigrettes.


Keywords


Birama Swamp; Butorides virescens; Cannibalism; Cuba; Green Heron; Siblicide

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