Conserve Wildlife Blog

Critter Chaos: Round 5 & 6 Update + FINAL RESULTS

April 7th, 2022

by Christine Healy, Wildlife Biologist

Our exciting tournament came to a conclusion last week! For those of you who have been following along, here’s the update on the final battles.

Round 5: Shorebirds & Raptors vs. Reptiles & Amphibians

The start of the semi-finals featured a rather surprising match-up as the #1 seeded peregrine falcon took to the arena against the #9 seeded bog turtle. Our peregrine pair habitually nested on the Delaware Memorial Bridge and were thus quite familiar with the surrounding area. Father falcon was in the mood for red-winged blackbird and flew to a wetland where he knew they were plentiful. On the way, he reminisced about a most unusual creature, distinguishable from the mud by two orange patches flanking its tiny head, that he had once seen nearby. Upon arrival, he noticed that the wetland, formerly characterized by tussock sedge and sphagnum moss was now thick with tall phragmites. The invasive vegetation rendered the habitat unsuitable for bog turtle, and forced a once-thriving population to abandon it. Peregrine falcon successfully caught his dinner but was left wondering why his opponent never turned up. Habitat loss eliminated bog turtle from the competition, propelling our mighty raptor into the championship.

Round 5: Mammals vs. Grassland Birds and Invertebrates

The semi-finals continued with the harbor seal vs. the bobolink. This unlikely duo met in Atlantic City after unseasonable temperatures encouraged bobolink to begin its migration back from Bolivia earlier than usual. Upon entering NJ airspace, a severe gale blew bobolink off course and nearly out to sea! Finding shelter underneath a patch of dune grass, bobolink waited out the storm. Unbeknownst to him, he caught the eye of a nearby harbor seal. Mistaking the black and white bird for a tiny eider, which seals will occasionally eat despite their largely piscivorous diet, harbor seal quickly captured bobolink who was no match for his unbelievable bite force.

CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND!

And so, it was harbor seal and peregrine falcon that ultimately earned the right to compete for the prestigious CWF Darwin Award! Both animals are adapted to make them favorable competitors within their respective niches. Though not one to spend much time on the beach, peregrine falcon was lured to Liberty State Park by the promise of an easy meal of seagulls. The seagull that had caught his eye also happened to be the target of harbor seal’s attentions, though our marine mammal was much more interested in the large fish that the gull was picking at. Harbor seal approached the bird at the same time that peregrine falcon stooped down on it- mutilating it and causing absolute bedlam among the flock. The motion and noise were too much for harbor seal, who quickly fled back to the security of the surf. Peregrine was left with the seagull, the fish, and the glory, as he became the worthy winner of the competition!

Congratulations to Peregrine Falcon and thanks to everyone who cheered all of our competitors on from the sidelines!

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