Sunday, 4 March 2012

Thousands of wild birds scare off a herd of elephants in Kenya

This is one moment these elephants in Kenya will want to forget - it's supposed to be mice that instil fear into the beasts, but this flock of red-billed queleas proved their scare tactics are much more than a myth. 

Two’s company: The red-billed queleas are startled by a cracking branch and suddenly flock in their thousands around the elephants (Picture: Antero Topp/Caters)

Perched on a tree as a herd of elephants drink from their favourite watering hole, the combined weight of the birds causes a branch to crack, sparking thousands of the starling-like birds to fill the sky.

As the peaceful scene is shattered, a cloud of the startled birds – each of them weighing about 10g – suddenly surrounds the herd, frightening the five-tonne mammals into a hasty retreat.

‘Despite their size, I was surprised to see the elephants back away maybe 50m (165ft) and some even ran,’ said Antero Topp, who caught the action on camera in east Tsavo, Kenya.

The photographer, 60, added: ‘All the birds took off and you could hear an unbelievable whoosh and, after that, their ear-breaking calls.’
The birds, the world’s most abundant wild bird species, had been feeding close to the waterhole before the desert drama unfolded.

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