This 9-foot American Alligator -- as opposed to the Yangtze Alligator, the only other kind -- is sleeping in the sun at the base of a nursery tree on an island full of nests and baby birds. Your first thought would be that it is waiting for one of the birds to get careless, but you'd be wrong. In the first place, alligators are not fond of birds. They'll eat them if nothing else is available but the thing is, there's really not much to a bird but feathers, and feathers are indigestible. That makes them less than desirable fare, and perhaps a pain in the cloaca as well. (Who knows?)
This guy is regulating his body temperature and dimly dreaming, in his tiny saurian brain, of the racoons and other predators that may be swimming in to the island come nightfall. It doesn't really need to eat them, because the wetlands are full of big Tilapia and hundreds of turtles, including many softshells. (Softshell turtles are alligator M&Ms.) Nonetheless, this is a survival strategy that has proven valuable to both the alligator and the birds for a long time, and gators are nothing if not creatures of habit. No, not habit -- instinct. They aren't smart enough to have habits.
american alligatorwakodahatchee wetlands