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A Crested Caracara being preened by Black Vultures. These videos show what may be one of the few cases described (maybe the only one?) of allopreening between two different bird species (Black Vulture and Crested Caracara). Birders in general are well used to witness preening behaviour. It’s well known and widely accepted that preening has mainly a feather maintenance purpose, and it’s associated with relax and comfort behaviour by the bird. In addition to that, “allopreening” refers to mutual preening; preening of the feathers of one bird by another. When using this term, it is naturally assumed that it’s describing an interaction between individuals of the same species. In the case of allopreening, additional motivations or functionalities, apart from those mentioned above, come into play. The most widely known and accepted is to reinforce social bonds between individuals, whether it occurs between members of a group or family, or most importantly between the members of a pair. But this is not the only one; certain studies state the role that allopreening may have as replacement of aggression. In this case, attack of one individual on another, would be responded by the latter by fluffing the feathers and tilting the head, and by that behavior the attacked bird provokes the attacker to give up the aggression, and give way to allopreening. (http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/4533105?uid=3737952&uid=2129&uid=2&uid=70&uid=4&sid=21101581222157) In the case of these video clips, they document consistent allopreening behavior between two different species: Black Vultures and a Crested Caracara (The latter is preened by the Vultures). Although it’s probably the first document of such an inter-specific behaviour in the IBC, it’s not the first time that this fact, in the case of these particular bird species, has been described (http://www.lorb.ib.ufu.br/artigos/allopreening.pdf). In this work, the authors state that there seems to be a social association between these two species, and allopreening would reflect that. Crested Caracaras apparently would join Black Vulture flocks and benefit from that, especially through the black vultures ability to locate food by smell. The Crested caracaras presence among them would somehow be tolerated, and they would reciprocally benefit from the Crested Caracara ability to vocalize (thus to alert from dangers), which the black vultures lack. Allopreening would be reflecting that situation of social coexistence, whether in the form of confirming social bonds, whether in the form of avoiding aggression (most probably in this case). In one of the clips, while one Vulture seems to gently preen the Caracara, there is a second one not so gentle, which finally causes the bird to move away. Elevation: 1746 m. Date added to IBC: June 23, 2016.
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