Be it a small bird or a big mammal, survival is not easy in nature, only the fittest can survive. It is more challenging if you are a predator. The whole forest and its denizens work against you and even then, you have to survive. Nature has given the advantage to both prey and predators for survival. While predators are given the advantage to hunt effectively, the prey are given the same to escape. Natural selection removes the weakest animal lacking or unable to use the advantage. A successful predator relies on their hunting strategy and skill.
Top 10 Strategic Predators of Indian Wildlife
- Royal Bengal Tiger
- Collared Falconet
- Peregrine Falcon
- Dhole or Wild Dogs
- Indian Rock Python
- King Cobra
- Saltwater Crocodile
- Indian Leopard
- Asiatic Lion
- Crested Kingfisher
Royal Bengal Tiger
The tiger is the biggest predator on land. They are the apex predator of the forest ecosystem in their distributional range. Their major diet is wild herbivores like deer, Indian gaur, wild pig, and monkeys. According to an observation by an Indian naturalist, the success ratio of tigers for hunting is only 20% which means out of five attempts tigers will get success only in one. This is so because nature has given an advantage to both prey and predators, while predators are equipped with the necessary strength and hunting gear, the prey is given the advantage of qualities to escape. When a tiger moves in the jungle, every animal announces its presence which means he is exposed to his prey. So tigers’ strategies hunt so that they can get a good result.
Running five times behind the prey and getting only one small prey is not a good plan, the energy input is not equal to output. So, the first strategy of a tiger is to always go for a big prey, a prey which can sustain them for 3-4 days. Another strategy is don’t run instead go for an ambush which requires less energy and quick and fast decision. Next when prey is potentially dangerous then don’t try to go for its neck, hunt from behind, chew its hamstring to make it immobilize then kill it. Tigers do it for hunting down big prey like male Indian gaur.
Once a bengal tiger makes a kill, he stays with it otherwise other carnivores and scavengers will steal the kill. They take 3-4 days to finish a big prey like sambar deer.
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Collared falconet is the smallest bird of prey in India. Because of their size they can be easily mistaken for a small passerine when perched. They are found in Indian subcontinent and southeast Asian countries. In the forest the easiest way to spot them is to look at high branches on a dead tree towering above the open forest or at the edge of forest where they usually perch. They perch high to look for their prey which is usually small birds, rodents, lizards and large insects. They are found singly or pairs or sometimes in a group of up to seven. Speed and agility are the strategy behind their hunting behavior and by this way they kill prey bigger than them. They were observed to kill even red jungle fowl. Sitting on high perch they look for a prey and then dive fast to catch them, fast speed makes their hunting gears are more effective.
They are the most cosmopolitan in distribution among the falcons. They are known for their formidable powers of flight. In the subcontinent there are three races found of this species in which one is resident and two are migratory. The resident race is known as Shaheen falcon. Peregrine which is a migratory race is known for their flight speed and ability to bring down the birds in midair. they are known as the fastest bird of prey; their diving speed can reach up to 300 kms. per hour. This will make them not only the fastest bird but also world’s fastest animal.
Their hunting strategy involves either by overtaking birds in flight or by rising above its prey, plunging relentlessly after it like a missile at great speed. They search for prey from perching high on trees or manmade structure or by circling flight. Attack is launched once potential prey flies into the range. During the pursuit the falcon gain more height to attack with more speed. The final dive is when the prey is less than 100 m and then they plunge with close wings and then strike with foot, the force of the blow and sharp claws kill the birds instantly. Browse our best birding tours in India.
Dhole or Wild Dogs
Dhole or wild dogs are pack-hunting wild canids of Asia. They are distributed throughout the Indian subcontinent. They are very adaptable and found in different climatic zones which includes tropical dry deciduous forest, tropical evergreen forests and alpine zone. In India they are highest population is found in Central India, after that in the Western Ghats and Eastern Ghats, there are sporadic populations found in Eastern Himalayas they are pack hunters and one of the most successful land predators of Asia. They are known to hunt on the prey much bigger in their size.
Their hunting strategy involves chasing and surrounding the prey until it gets exhausted and once the prey loses his attention they started attacking from every corner. They mostly attack from behind and the prey died due to shock and blood loss. Once the prey is grounded then each member of the pack started grabbing their share. The whole strategy is planned in a coordinated manner and they communicate with each other by whistling that is why they are also called as whistling hunters. It is also documented that once the pack is exhausted aur killed they ask for help from the other pack. They are known to kill predators like tigers and leopards.
Indian Rock Python
Indian Rock Python is the most widely distributed species of Python in India. pythons are non-venomous big snakes. They are biggest in Asia and in many other continents rank second only to Anaconda. They are nocturnal and adopted to different habitat type including human dominated and modified ecosystem. Though they are very adoptable but they need large undisturbed areas to hunt and hide in. Being a non-venomous snake, their largest strength is in their muscular power.
They adopt a different strategy for hunting, unlike other animals and birds they don’t chase the prey but wait for them to come close and then with great agility they catch them and coil around their neck and body breaking the bones and suffocate the prey. Once the prey loses all his senses, they started swallowing them which is a slow process and once they swallow the prey, they keep themselves in a secluded place where they can hide because it will take time to digest and during this process they cannot move much. This is the time when they are most vulnerable by attack of any animal so they keep hiding until they digest their meal.
King Cobra is known as the largest venomous snake of the world and in India they are found in foothills and Terai of Himalayas, north-eastern hills and planes, western ghats and in parts of eastern ghats. Having the recognition of the most venomous snake of the world they seldom attack on humans. They always try to scare the other animals, not their prey by showing their big size. They are known to stand up to six feet in height.
They inhabit mostly primary forests with heavy rainfall region and avoid human disturbed areas. They are the only species of snake which is known to make nest from the leaves on forest floor. The females make nest and stay with it till the eggs hatched. They are snake eaters but sometime also observed to eat Monitor Lizard. They are quick and that is the key of their hunting strategy. Though their venom is less toxic than the venom of spectacled cobra but injecting a large quantity in one bite makes them the most venomous snake on earth.
Saltwater crocodiles are commonly known as salties and are one of the biggest species of crocodiles. After shark they are the most efficient predators of saltwater specially areas of mangroves, estuarine and backwaters. In India they are found in the eastern coast and islands of Andamans. They are known for their strong jaw and a surprise attack on the prey under or near water.
Their power is multiplied by many times when they are under the water and that is their main strategy to hunt. they hide themselves and move slowly towards the potential prey. Once they reach close, they surprise the prey by attacking. They grab the prey by their strong jaws which is once closed is almost impossible to open. Then they drag the prey inside the water where they break them in pieces and swallow them.
Leopards are known for their amazing skill of conceal themselves in their surroundings. This is the most advantageous predatory skill they possess. Leopards are one of the most adoptable cats. They are not only found in well protected areas like national parks but also found in and near human habitation where they survive mostly feeding on street dogs, pigs and other small and big animals and birds. They are ecologically generalist species and can feed on anything which comes on their way, this habit makes them one of the most adoptable cats of the world.
Leopards either stalk them pray for a short distance or ambush by hiding and waiting for the prey to come close. Lightning speed and strong grip helps to bring down the prey even bigger and faster.
India is the only country where one can find Lions apart from African continent. Asiatic lion is a sub species of lion found in the western part of India in the state of Gujrat. They are highly endangered species and their survival in the forest is a conservation success story. The lions are known to hunt in group called pride. Generally, lioness hunts and male lion join at the time of feeding.
To feed a group and male lions, lioness have to hunt big prey like wild buffalo or wildebeest but in India there is a lack of big herbivores in the Gir forest where Asiatic lions are found. In absence of big and abundant prey their group size reduces which is in India is about 2-5 females and their young ones while in Africa their group size can go up to 15 individuals. Males generally join the group only for feeding and mating. Ambush, chasing, surrounding and then hunting is the strategy they follow to hunt down prey like sambar deer. Going against the wind is another strategy adopted by most of the cats to avoid being detected by their prey.
Though crested Kingfisher is not categorized as a bird of prey as their name suggest they feed on fishes and locating them and hunting is not easy for a bird like them. Crested Kingfishers are found in India near rivers, stream and ponds. They are mainly feeds on fishes and to hunt them they do not adopt the strategy that other birds like egret, herons and storks adopt. They hover just above the water and once they locate the fish they dive with great speed and close wings. They dive, catch the fish and then bring their kill on the nearest rock where they feed on it.
Hunting is a skill that gets refined during the evolutionary process of a species and same with the prey, they refined the skill to escape. Species that don’t update their skill during the evolution process are disappeared and becomes extinct by natural selection. This happened with many species in the past but at a slower rate but now extinction is fast which is mostly due to man-made causes. The responsibility of keeping our natural world intact and safe now rests on our shoulders. This will ensure our own survival through the ecosystem services these species provide to us. Explore the best birding tours in India.