- Published: 11 September 2009
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Andrew Kerr, age 8, of Fredericton, Neb, , for his question:
What bird cleans the crocodile's teeth?
The crocodile of the Nile is a fierce and hungry man‑eater. His long, narrow jaws are fitted with cruel teeth and he can snap his great mouth shut with enough strength to cut through a thick board. He also is a very cunning hunter, His eyes are set in little bulging turrets and his nostrils poke up in little bumps. This makes it possible for him to lie or float in the water with only his eyes and nose above the surface. He stays this way, almost completely hidden, breathing comfortably and. watching for his victims.
The hungry crocodile dines on fish and water birds. Fee also waits with cunning patience hidden in the water and hoping for a deer or perhaps a p.1g to ecma down to drink. Then in a flash the big toothy jaws spring open and shut with a snap. After a short tussle in the muddy water, Mr. Crocodile settles down to enjoy his dinner.
Sometimes, however, the crocodile of the Nile seems to change his blood‑thirsty ways. He may be sprawled in the mud with a number of pretty little birds peacefully busy here and there on his scaly hide, One may be standing on his fearsome head. One or two may be strolling along his mighty back. One of them, we are told, even may walk right Into the crocodile’s terrible jaws and poke around among the deadly teeth. And the strange thing is that the crocodile does nothing to drive them away. He even does not snap shut his jaws and devour the little bird in his mouth.
This brave little black and white bird is called the courser because his long, thin legs take him running over the ground at a great rate. He also is called the ziczac from the sound of his piercing cry.
But he is most commonly called the crocodile bird because of his strange friendship with the toothy killer,
The crocodile bird is a plover, He is an Old World cousin of many plovers who live all or part of their lives in North America, Some of thse beautiful birds have amazing qualities. The golden plover nests on the chilly tundras of Alaska. In the fall he migrates to Hawaii, flying 2P400 miles over the ocean without stopping for food or rest. Another plover is the pretty killdeer who nests in our meadows and tempts enemies away from his nest by limping along pretending he has a broken wing.
The crocodile bird enjoys life in the muddy waters of the African Nile. He feeds on insects, especially leeches, These creatures tend to set up housekeeping on the skin and even in the mouth of the crocodile and the little bird goes hunting for them. When he enters the crocodile’s mouth he is hoping to find a few fat leeches among the terrible teeth. And Mr. Crocodile, it seems, is very happy to get rid of these parasites, for he resists the temptation to gobble up his little friend.