A kleptoparasite is defined in my Shorter Oxford Dictionary as “a bird, insect or other animal which habitually steals food from animals of other species.” Or its own.
Last week I spent a few days in the small Gulf of Carpentaria town of Borroloola and late one afternoon an enormous pall of smoke signalled a fire on the grasslands to the north of town.
That fire left an area of a few hundred acres reduced to charred ruin, but what was undoubtedly a loss for the many small birds, reptiles, insects and others caught up in the conflagration was a bonus for others.
I went back to camp and grabbed a camera and by the time I returned to the fireground the sun was setting in a sky rapidly filling with hundreds of Black Kites, Torresian Crows and other birds after a quick feed on the crispy-fried-critter-feast left behind by the fire.
As the sun fell I counted at least twenty Australian Bustards stalking across the burnt ground with their typical watchful grace.
The next morning I was up at dawn and again the sky was again full of birds looking for an easy feed.This Bustard cruised by.
This Dingo pup was busy putting up Quail from the small areas of unburnt grass untouched by the fire.
Overhead the sky was again filled with squabbling Crows and Kites. This Torresian Crow enjoyed a few quiet moments picking flesh from a fried frog.
Overhead the chases continued. Here a Spotted Harrier is harried by a mob of Crows.
The kleptoparasitic Kites kept doing what they do best.
This Brown Falcon was perched low on a small termite mound.
This Black Falcon snuck past in the aerial confusion.