Wanted for Kleptoparasitism: 10 Birds that Steal!

Day 29 of 100 Days of Blogging

Today’s birds are on the Wanted List, the “criminals” of the bird world. Yes it’s true, there are some naughty birds out there! Here are 10 birds that let others do all the work of hunting for food, then swoop in to take it away for themselves. In recent developments, the BBC reports that the Magpie is no longer on the list. Contrary to yesterday’s blog report, it appears Rossini had it all wrong!

Top 10 Offenders on the Avian Crime Watch List

#1. Bobbie “The Blackbird” Merula     Aliases: Common Blackbird, Turdus merula
Crime Family Associations: Old world Blackbird Family.
Identifying Marks: black, except for a yellow eye-ring and bill. has a rich, melodious song
Last seen: Europe, Asia, and North Africa
Known offences: Lurks near Song Thrush hangouts. Waits for these tool using birds to extract bodies of snails, then steals them.

#2. Peter “The Parasite” Skua     Aliases: Parasitic Skua or Arctic jaeger, Stercorarius parasiticus. Skua uses the  alias “Jaeger” when in North America.
Crime Family Associations:
Crime ring includes Long-tailed Skua, Chilean Skua, South Polar Skua, Brown Skua, Great Skua. These associates also use the last name Jaeger instead of Skua when in North America.
Identifying Marks: Medium to large birds, grey or brown plumage, often with white markings on the wings. The largest member of gang is the long-tailed skua a.k.a. Stercorarius longicauda. The smallest is the Brown Skua a.k.a. Stercorarius antarcticus. Lookout, the skuas are strong, acrobatic fliers!
Last seen: Widespread, members of this family seen from the Arctic to the Antarctic
Known offences:
Beware, generally aggressive in disposition. Potential predators approaching a Skua nest will be dived at by the parent bird, which usually targets the head of the intruder – practice known as dive bombing. Active and skilled marine pirate. Ambushes other seabirds returning from fishing trips. Forces victims to disgorge catch mid-air.

#3. Franco “The Magnificent” Fregata    AliasesMagnificent frigatebird, Fregata magnificens,  Man-of-War bird
Crime Family Associations: The Fregatida family members also include Ascension Frigatebird a.k.a. Fregata aquila, Christmas frigatebird a.k.a.  Fregata andrewsi, Great Frigatebird a.k.a. Fregata minor, Lesser Frigatebird  a.k.a. Fregata ariel.
Identifying Marks: Deeply forked tails, hooked bills. Males have distinctive red gular pouch only visible during breeding season. Look out for the largest wing area to body weight ratio of any bird. Wings are long, pointed wings possibly spanning up to 2.3 metres (7.5 ft)
Last seen: Members of this pelagic family has widespread distribution throughout tropical Atlantic, Tropical Indian and Pacific oceans
Known offences: Compared to other crime families, only responsible for very small percentage of avian kleptoparasitism. Nevertheless, works with unsuspecting accomplices by feeding on fish driven to surface by tuna and dolphinfish. Known to stalk fishing vessels and make quick assaults to steal fish from holding areas. Be vigilant, Frigatebirds may assail targets that have just caught food; parents returning with food to feed their chicks in the nest should proceed with caution. Frigatebirds seen circling over seabird colonies should be cause for concern. Boobies, Petrels, Shearwaters and Terns should remain vigilant at all times, Frigatebirds may steal eggs and young. May work in pairs.

#4. Harold “The Kite”     Aliases: Brahminy Kite, Haliastur indus, Hovering kite. Goes by the alias Red-backed Sea-eagle in Australia
Crime Family Associations: Member of the Birds of Prey Gang a.k.a. the Accipitridae Family
Identifying Marks:  chestnut plumage except for the white head and breast and black wing tips
Last seen: The Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, and Australia.
Known offences: Attempts to steal prey from other birds

#5. George “The Sea Eagle” Steller     Aliases: Haliaeetus pelagicus
Crime Family Associations: : Member of the Birds of Prey Gang a.k.a. the Accipitridae Family
Identifying Marks: One of the largest raptors overall.
Last seen: Breeds on the Kamchatka Peninsula. May winter farther south, in the southern Kuril Islands, Russia and Hokkaidō, Japan.
Known offences: Photographed coming away with the prey after using its superior size to dominate, usually by bearing down its mass and large bill over smaller Golden Eagle

#6. Peter “The Rose” Dougallii     Aliases: Roseate Tern, Sterna dougallii
Crime Family Associations: Sternidae Bird Family
Identifying Marks: Thin, sharp, black bill with a red base during through breeding season. Long flexible tail streamers and orange-red legs. Pinkish tinge to underpants in summer
Last seen: Atlantic coasts of Europe and North America, and winters south to the Caribbean and west Africa.
Known Offences: Petty criminal opportunistically steals from other family members to feed own children.

#7. Eddie “The Fish” Eagle     Aliases: African Fish Eagle , Haliaeetus vocifer, National bird of Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Sudan.
Crime Family Associations: Member of the Birds of Prey gang a.k.a. the Accipitridae Family 
Identifying Marks: Large species of Eagle, may resemble the Bald Eagle. Mostly brown body with a white head like the bald eagle and large, powerful, black wings. The head, breast, and tail of African Fish Eagles are snow white, with the exception of the featherless face, which is yellow.
Last seen: Sub-Saharan Africa wherever large bodies of open water occur that have an abundant food supply.
Offences: The African fish eagle is known to ambush Goliath Herons and other bird species for their catch 

#8. Larry “The Gull” Laridae     Aliases: Black-headed Gull, Chroicocephalus ridibundus
Crime Family Associations: Laridae Bird Family 
Identifying Marks: In summer chocolate-brown head (not black, although does look black from a distance), pale grey body, black tips to the primary wing feathers, and red bill and legs. The hood is lost in winter, leaving just 2 dark spots.
Last seen: Europe and Asia, and also in coastal eastern Canada
Offence: Steals worms from Northern Lapwings and Eurasian Golden Plovers. Suspected that Plovers may be paying protection money, trading worms for advance warning of predators approaching.

#9. Cora “The Klepto”    Aliases: Common Raven, Corvus cora, Northern Raven
Crime Family Associations: Corvidae Bird Family
Identifying Marks: Large all-black passerine bird
Last seen: Across the Northern Hemisphere
Known Offences: Can be dangerous if approached, attacks potential predators by flying at them and lunging with its large bill. Has a long history of kleptoparasitism. According to Native American Legend may have displayed Robin Hood style behaviour at one time. Reportedly stole the sun to bring light to the people of the Pacific Northwest. Has reputation for being tricky and may work in pairs to distract victim and steal their food.

#10. Ricky “The Crow” Corvus    Aliases: American crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
Crime Family AssociationsCorvidae Bird Family
Identifying Marks: All black, with iridescent feathers.
Last seen:  From Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean in Canada, on the French islands of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, south through the United States, and into northern Mexico. 
Known Offences: Trickster, may work in pairs to distract victim and steal their food. Opportunistic pick-pocketing behaviour. Reports from Great Egrets complaining of losing their catch when stalked by gangs of crows.