Invasive snakes eating Florida bird eggs

April 6, 2012 at 5:25 PM

WASHINGTON, April 6 (UPI) -- Invasive Burmese pythons in Florida's Everglades are not just preying on the region's birds but have started eating eggs straight from the nest, scientists say.

The findings have highlighted another challenge to the area's already heavily affected native wildlife, researchers said.

"This finding is significant because it suggests that the Burmese python is not simply a sit-and-wait predator, but rather is opportunistic enough to find the nests of birds," Smithsonian ornithologist Carla Dove from the National Museum of Natural History said.

"Although the sample size is small, these findings suggest that the snakes have the potential to negatively affect the breeding success of native birds."

Burmese pythons, native to South Asia, have taken up a widespread residence in Florida, especially in the Everglades, were they were first found in 1979 and suspected of being escaped or discarded pets.

Researchers estimate the region now has a breeding population in the tens of thousands, the Smithsonian reported Thursday.

"Our observations confirm that invasive Burmese pythons consume not only adult birds but also eggs, revealing a previously unrecognized risk from this introduced predator to nesting birds," said Dove. "How frequently they are predating on bird eggs is hard to know."

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