Responses of Australian wading birds to a novel toxic prey type, the invasive cane toad Rhinella marina

Christa Beckmann*, Michael R. Crossland, Richard Shine

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


The impact of invasive predators on native prey has attracted considerable scientific attention, whereas the reverse situation (invasive species being eaten by native predators) has been less frequently studied. Such interactions might affect invasion success; an invader that is readily consumed by native species may be less likely to flourish in its new range than one that is ignored by those taxa. Invasive cane toads (Rhinella marina) in Australia have fatally poisoned many native predators (e. g., marsupials, crocodiles, lizards) that attempt to ingest the toxic anurans, but birds are more resistant to toad toxins. We quantified prey preferences of four species of wading birds (Nankeen night heron, purple swamphen, pied heron, little egret) in the wild, by offering cane toads and alternative native prey items (total of 279 trays offered, 14 different combinations of prey types). All bird species tested preferred the native prey, avoiding both tadpole and metamorph cane toads. Avoidance of toads was strong enough to reduce foraging on native prey presented in combination with the toads, suggesting that the presence of cane toads could affect predator foraging tactics, and reduce the intensity of predation on native prey species found in association with toads.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2925-2934
Number of pages10
JournalBiological Invasions
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • bufotoxin
  • Bufo marinus
  • egret
  • heron
  • metamorph
  • swamphen
  • tadpole


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