Amazing Nature

Foraging in Company

Feb 2021
Author: Green Power
Collective hunting between African Wild Dog Lycaon pictus
Even lion is wary of a highly social African Wild Dog pack!
Photo from Pixabay

Unity is strength; as the folk saying explains, “Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable”. The idea is honoured in the animal kingdom too. Many species choose to pull together in finding and sharing food as a group. United as one, the animals obtain more food by more effective hunting.

African Wild Dog

African Wild Dog (Lycaon pictus) enjoys the reputation of top hunter in the savanna – even the mighty lion has to be wary of it. All this is due to the strong bonds among the pack. African Wild Dog rarely lose their prey; once the clan leader launches attack on the lonely prey on target, the pack members swiftly close in. There is almost no escape for the prey. The highly social clan shares the prey among every member – especially the weak and the young. This behaviour reinforces the species' unique social structure.

A gigantic spider web cover a whole tree canopy
A gigantic spider web weaved by a social group can cover a whole tree canopy and greatly increase the chance of catching prey.
© Kimchi Lo

American orb-weaver

Most spiders are solitary. In the Amazon tropical rainforest, there is a special species that derives the social benefit of living together. Thousands of individuals work together to weave a gigantic web that spans a few dozen metres: enough to cover a whole large tree. The large trap increases the chance of catching prey, and can snare prey many times the size of an individual spider!

Collective hunting of sardine schools by Humpback Whales Megaptera novaeangliae
Collective hunting of sardine schools by Humpback Whales.
© Evadb @ Wikipedia

Humpback Whale

Every year, Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) pods arrive in the north Pacific Ocean during summer. They have developed a cooperative way of hunting: bubble net hunting, which is effective in taking agile sardines. Some whales start by blowing bubble to encircle a school of fish. Others dive deeper and drive the fish upwards towards the surface by vocalising. The whales then easily swallow thousands of fish with their mouths agape.

A Rufous-capped Babbler Cyanoderma ruficeps
Rufous-capped Babbler (Cyanoderma ruficeps) is acommon bird species found in bird waves in Hong Kong.
© Kimchi Lo

Bird Waves

In Hong Kong, we can also observe a distinctive type of flock feeding – the bird wave. Unlike the other ways of group hunting, a bird wave is usually made up of mixed species that forage together. By forming a bird wave that moves along the same route, foraging (mainly of insects) and predator detection become more effective with more eyes on the lookout. We have indeed much to learn from the mutual help of our feathered friends!