The Slovenia Times

Slovenian researchers discover hyenas hunt small birds

Environment & Nature
Hyena hunts on red-billed queleas in Namibia. Photo: Biotechnical Faculty of the University of Ljubljana

Researchers from the Ljubljana Biotechnical Faculty have discovered a new feeding behaviour in spotted hyenas who have taken a liking for songbirds. The researchers studied the hyenas and published their findings in the American scientific journal Food Webs.

Spotted hyenas are mostly known as scavengers feeding on carcasses but are also successful in hunting antelopes, zebras and other African ungulates. Little was known until now about hyenas feeding on smaller prey, the University of Ljubljana said.

Researchers Ruben Portas and Miha Krofel were researching African lions and regularly visiting watering wells in the Etosha National Park in Namibia, where large flocks of songbirds often gather in autumn.

One day, they saw four spotted hyenas chasing a flock of red-billed queleas. They further studied this previously unknown behaviour and recorded it, finding out that hyenas use three different hunting techniques and can catch 21 birds per hour on average.

Hyenas can jump to attack the flocks of birds while they are in flight, run after them when they are on the ground or try to pick up the birds that fell in the water as wet wings make it more difficult for them to escape.

"Small birds are rarely the prey of large carnivores, which usually hunt for prey of their size or larger. But hyenas are known to be adaptable and have at least in some areas learned to diversify their diet with birds," the university added.

The birds are likely not the main source of food for these hyenas as they would have to spend seven to 15 hours a day hunting them to meet their total food requirements, the researchers found.


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