Amusing Bird Behaviour
Birds do funny things sometimes.
In the heat of summer you are likely to see one sitting with its mouth open. Why? When our bodies become hot, we eliminate excess heat by sweating. But birds have no sweat glands. By keeping their mouths open they stay cool by expelling body heat.
While it is perched you might see a bird twisting its head into impossible angles so it can reach into its feathers with its beak. It is preening its feathers. Feathers are crucial for a bird's survival and must always be kept in top form. Preening cleans them, aligns their barbs and keeps parasites in check. Birds spend up to ten percent of each day on preening.
Some birds take preening a step further. I have seen Jungle Babblers sitting in a row preen their neighbour's feathers. This mutual practice, called allopreening, helps build stronger bonds within the flock.
Eating and drinking can look funny for birds. When we eat, the muscles in our mouth help us chew and push the food down into our stomachs. Birds catch food with their beak, and their means of chewing and swallowing are different. After catching a fish with its sharp pointed beak, a kingfisher may repeatedly clobber it on a branch. Lacking teeth, it softens the fish this way. Birds which catch insects that sting - bees and wasps, for example - will pummel it against a branch to expel the venom before consumption. Birds such as bee-eaters and darters flip their prey upwards and open their beaks so it lands inside their mouth because they don't have the muscles needed to swallow food,
Funny behaviour erupts during mating season when male birds try to attract a mate. One spring day, I saw a Bengal Bushlark rise vertically from the ground, make a dozen circles in the air and drop down to the ground like a stone – all the while making its loud mating call. In Florida, an Osprey carrying a fish almost half its size astonished me by hovering perhaps ten seconds in the air while holding the fish up for display – to prove to any nearby female it would be a good provider.
When their chicks are too small to fly, raptors drop food into the nest. But once the chicks start flying, their parents will transfer food to them in the air. Black-shouldered Kites may hover briefly in the air while holding the prey in its talons. The chick flies up from underneath it and takes the food. Sometimes talon-to-talon transfer becomes complicated. I saw a parent Brahminy Kite hovering while holding the prey in its talons. Its chick flew directly underneath it and briefly turned upside down to take the prey into its talons.
Some raptors are also scavengers and will take dead prey. But other raptors want live prey only. For example, a bee-eater catches flying insects such as bees, butterflies and dragonflies with its sharp, pointed beaks. But it will only eat live insects it has caught on the wing and will avoid dead or static insects.
Amusing bird behaviours can be seen in your rooftop, in the sky above you or at a nearby park or lake. You do not need to venture far but you need patience.
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