Birds That Prey on Odonata -A female Red-winged Blackbird with a teneral damselfly for her fledglings.  Photo by Roy Beckemeyer.

One of a series of Web pages by Roy J. Beckemeyer devoted to ASPECTS OF INSECT BIOLOGY.

Last updated 15 August 2002 (Added song lyrics by Dennis Paulson.)

Right: A female Red-winged Blackbird with a teneral damselfly in her mouth - she is bringing insects to feed her nestlings in the nest built in the cattails behind her.  Photo by Roy Beckemeyer, taken at Botanica, The Wichita Gardens, in May, 2001.  Nikon F-100 and Nikon 500 mm f4 manual telephoto lens.  

This web page contains three bar charts based on data from C. H. Kennedy's 1950 paper in Ecological Monographs ("The relation of American dragonfly-eating birds to their prey", 20(2):103-142).  The charts were built in EXCEL using data entered from the paper.  A note in the paper by Kennedy mentions that 9.8% of Red-winged Blackbird nestlings checked had Odonata remains in their stomachs.  

A new addition to the page are some observations by C. Erbaugh & R. Larsen, concerning predation on Sympetrum corruptum by Scissor-tailed Flycatchers and by Lesser Prairie Chickens at Mescalero Dunes in New Mexico.

The first chart shows the species of birds and the % of those sampled that contained Odonata remains (adult and/or larval) in their stomachs.  The second chart shows the same data, but for birds that had mostly adult Odonata remains in their stomachs, and the final chart for birds with mostly larval remains in their stomachs.  For example, from the first chart we can see that it was found that more than 60% of the Merlins sampled had Odonata remains in their stomachs, and so on.

After looking at these charts one day, Dennis Paulson was moved to paraphrase the old song "Mairsy Doats":

"Hawksy dodes and frogsy dodes
and little ducksy dlarvy.
A fishelly dlarvy too,
wouldn't you?"

- Dennis Paulson, 2002





by C. Erbaugh & R. Larsen

     The Variegated Meadowhawk, Sympetrum corruptum, is the dominant dragonfly species of the Mescalero Dunes of southeastern New Mexico.  Sympetrum corruptum populations are abundant on the dunes between late March and October, often found positioned on barbed wire, evenly spaced between fence posts for miles along Highway 380 as it passes through the dunes. 

     The Audubon Society and New Mexico Highway and Transportation Department maintain a rest stop, Waldrop Park, on the Mescalero Dunes, at which the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher can be found throughout the early Spring and Summer. Waldrop Park is located about half way between Roswell and Tatum, New Mexico on Highway 380.  The primary vegetation at the park is shin oak, western soapberry trees, cottonwoods and a few elm trees at the side of a well shaded pond.  It is here that Sympetrum corruptum can be found in abundance.

     Sympetrum corruptum makes up the primary food source of the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher through early Spring and Summer.  The flycatcher can be viewed at this site swooping down with its two long streaming tails and plucking Sympetrum corruptum from perching sites on the lower Western Soapberry Trees.  Often the flycatcher can be observed gliding down from the top of an elm tree and snatching Sympetrum corruptum from its perch along the top of barbed wire fencing along the highway only to have another corruptum male take up the pearch site.

    Also, Sympetrum corruptum seems to be the primary food source for the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher during nesting activity on the Mescalero Dunes.  Sympetrum corruptum also makes up some portion of the diet of the Lesser Prairie-Chicken, Tympanuchus pallidicinctus, as observed on the dunes of the Sand Ranch north of Waldrop Park.


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