My life is about living with nature – here you can live it with me!

Ecological Niches

Many of our diurnal and nocturnal animals will both have similar ecological niches. Think of a niche as a job someone (human) might have in the grocery store. Many employees that work in this grocery store have a specific duty and specialties in getting their job done. One employee might be the butcher and makes sure the meat isn’t spoiled or is always sliced the same way. Another employee will have the duty of keeping the fruit fresh and knows everything that needs to be known about the fruit they are selling. Some grocery stores have seafood departments, bakeries and even a pharmacy. By everyone working together will provide a location for us making choices in what we eat. Animals also have jobs and their “ecological niche” which keeps them from competing for food but still allows many species to live together in the same habitat. For example, nuthatches walk upside down on the tree to pull out insects that they can see under the bark (which other birds easily overlook). Walking upside down is their ecological niche!

Eastern Screech Owl

There are also some animals that have the same “ecological niche” but do not compete for food because one is a diurnal hunter and the other is a nocturnal hunter. Some examples would be the Kestrel vs. Screech Owl. Both live in similar habitats, both live in nest boxes and both eat smaller insects. Great Horned Owl vs. Red-tailed Hawk are two other species who share similar nesting territories; both feed on small mammals and are about a similar sized. Those are some obvious examples but we neglect to talk about our smaller critters. Take for example, the ground feeding birds vs. mice who are looking for bugs and seeds that have fallen on the ground.

little brown bat

Bats are nocturnal mammals that fly around and feed on flying insects that they find using their sonar. Their diurnal partners would be the chimney swifts who are always up high searching for flying insects. Both animals are champion fliers and have adapted over time to using buildings as their after hours residence. Bats can climb into the smallest crevice, under tiles and even under shingles to hide during daylight hours. The Chimney Swift is unique because they have tiny feet (since they never land) and will build a nest or roost in a chimney they find. Here in Allegany State Park the Administration Building is perfect area for housing both the bats and Chimney Swifts because it is very old with many small crevices and multiple large chimneys. In years past at dusk you could watch several hundreds of Chimney Swifts entering the chimneys and then watch several hundred bats leaving numerous small crevices in search of their insects! It all happens within a matter of a half hour and one of the most amazing things I have ever seen (which we call the changing of the guards).

Chimney Swift Nest

Chimney Swift Nest is put together by a glue-link substance they secrete from their salivatory glands.

Today around lunch time I saw my first Chimney Swifts for 2007 (CHECK)!! The half a dozen birds were doing courtship displays and just I knew it would only be a matter of time till they arrive back in Western New York.

17 responses

  1. What a perfectly charming nest – even if it is held together by spit :0)

    The niche info is fascinating. As I read it, it occurred to me that it really is a ‘jungle’ out there, albeit – a wonderful one. But, eat or be eaten is what the niches are all about, eh?

    23 April 2007 at 6:28 pm

  2. You are really on a roll here–blogging daily. I am having trouble keeping up.
    I feel like I am back in my student days, lapping up all this wonderful info.
    Cool–a photo of a bat. I love bats and spend much time telling people not to be afraid of them (worth a whole blog posting in itself).
    And you mention Salamanca–as in Spain? We were there last summer–great town.

    23 April 2007 at 8:21 pm

  3. Very informative and interesting post Mon@rch. I love reading about birds.

    23 April 2007 at 9:33 pm

  4. Spit nests. But still, it is lovely. Love your bat. I was watching bats fly last night — they are amazing.

    24 April 2007 at 12:50 am

  5. It’s kind of like “show and tell” with you lately. I love it! I used to stand outside at dusk and watch the bats. Amazing. I appreciate the niche lesson.

    I wonder what your next post will bring…

    24 April 2007 at 8:49 am

  6. @ Cathy – Spit Finished is the best way of finish the nest. Sure thing on the niche! Love eat or be eaten!
    @ KGMom – Lots going on and lots to talk about! I have lived in Salamanca, most of my life! Salamanca, NY I am talking about! But it is just like the Spain Salamanca!
    @ Barb – Thanks
    @ Liz – Thanks and they are amazing!
    @ Mary – trying to be creative and not sure yet! Hmm! I should be able to come up with something though!

    24 April 2007 at 9:18 am

  7. Really interesting post (again). I learn a lot reading the information you are willing to share with everyone. How does one tell the difference between a swallow and a swift when they are flying?

    24 April 2007 at 11:26 am

  8. Thanks Nature – Hmm, Swifts look like flying cigars and really do look like flying bats! The Swifts are all black where the swallows normally have color (or light and dark features) to them.

    24 April 2007 at 12:33 pm

  9. Thanks for that. I once heard someone describe either swallow or swift wing movement as similar to a pencil sharpener. Did not get it, hence did not remember it.

    24 April 2007 at 1:22 pm

  10. Great observations about niches and the animals that share them. I love that bat photo. They are such strange little mammals.

    24 April 2007 at 2:56 pm

  11. I learn something new every time I visit your blog Monarch! You are a wonderful teacher! :c)

    24 April 2007 at 4:25 pm

  12. Interesting topic-You offer a nice variety of information-check!

    24 April 2007 at 8:33 pm

  13. @ Robin – thanks and they are great little mammals!
    @ Jayne – thanks and love sharing with everyone!
    @ Larry – thanks and just giving out whatever is appropriate at the time.

    25 April 2007 at 2:14 pm

  14. Interesting discussion – I’ve always enjoyed stories about animals whose niches intersected, such as pika (a Himalayan rodent) shares their den with a bird (I think it was a magpie-like bird). The arrangement works to mutual benefit because the birds get homes, and act as lookouts for the pika, who are pretty much on all of the carnivore’s hit lists.

    25 April 2007 at 7:52 pm

  15. @ Marty – nature is stunning and makes you wonder why humans can’t get along with each other this well??

    26 April 2007 at 8:09 am

  16. Marg

    a pencil sharpener? I don’t get it either!

    I love that owl shot, and as usual a great post

    26 April 2007 at 7:54 pm

  17. krizler

    i really love those bats, seeing them roosting inside the caves, it’s really fun.. how i wish i can have a pet bat..

    4 September 2010 at 5:43 am

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