This bird was interesting, and a really good addition to the Free Flight show at Currumbin. It has a very specific native behaviour that is very unusual in birds. It uses a tool as part of its eating habits – specifically it uses a stone to open emu eggs!
Apparently its not a learned behaviour but one that its born knowing (I’m calling it native). Emu eggs are quite large and green and the shells are quite thick. The obvious thing would be to pick the egg up and drop it, but I imagine they are so smooth they are hard to grip. So this bird’s ancestors came up with the idea of dropping a stone on the shell until it cracks! Clever!
Keeper puts the plaster emu egg on the ground, and the buzzard flies down, decides ‘yes it is an emu egg’ and then goes looking for a likely stone. I was surprised how comfortable it was walking around on the ground. Not something I imagined raptors would do a lot of.
It was very precise about dropping the stone on the egg – it didn’t miss in the several drops I saw. And clearly it realised that a reasonable sized stone was required to have an affect. Dropped it a few times til it got a decent crack, checked it out, had another drop and BINGO! Meat treat 🙂
It was really interesting behaviour, and a good learning experience at the show. I imagine they get heaps of school visists, and the overall theme of the show was from a conservation POV, to show off all the lovely birds, and explain why they were special. This was a highlight for me as I had no idea this happened in birds at all.
From a photography angle, this was an easy series to shoot because it was on the ground, and easier to expose for, instead of against the sky. And the bird was a reasonable size and not moving particularly quickly, so easy to focus on and get a series of shots. Shot in P mode with 70-200 F4 IS L on.
Next and last Post in the Currumbin series will be on the Wedgetailed Eagle, up close and personal.