Re: birding-aus Bird Play

Subject: Re: birding-aus Bird Play
From: Brian Fleming <>
Date: Sun, 07 Feb 1999 16:05:22 +1100

Lynda Chambers wrote:
> birding-aus
> The Victorian Ornithological Research Group (VORG) is
> currently looking for observations on bird play for
> inclusion in their journal VORG Notes.  If you have
> any observations on birds playing we would love to
> hear from you.  A presentation of some of the information
> received as well as a brief discussion on bird play will
> be made on Wednesday the 7th of April at 8pm in Heidelberg,
> Vic.  Everyone who contributes information on bird play
> that is included in our journal will receive a free copy
> of the journal (so include your postal address in any
> email responses).
> For further information on VORG meetings, VORG Notes etc
> have a look at our web site
> Lynda Chambers
> E-Mail: 
> Phone : +613 9669 4784
> To unsubscribe from this list, please send a message to
> Include "unsubscribe birding-aus" in the message body (without the
> quotes)

I suppose the best example was the Galahs on the heavy wire stay on a
telegraph pole which sloped down at about 45 degrees or a bit steeper. A
couple of birds found that if they didnt grip the wire they could slide
down it - so they did, squawking, chattering, flapping and hanging
upside-down. What proved it to be play, to my mind, was that they did it
again and again, apparently becoming more and more excited - and were
soon joined by half a dozen others who wanted to join the game. I first
saw this a long time ago somewhere out near Horsham, and have seen it on
a few other occasions. never when I had camera or even notebook handy.
  Does the pet Sulphur-crested Cockatoo which frequently deliberately
teased a small dog, by mimicking the sound of a plate being scraped, so
that the scrap-fed dog came rushing up, count as play? As far as anyone
could tell, the Cocky viewed this as an excellent joke. (Observation
made in South Perth in 1920s by my mum!)
  Magpies - in September 1976, we observed a party of Black-backed
Magpies in Wyperfeld NP (Vic) playing a silly game with a large strong
piece of bark which was about the size of a bread-and-butter plate. The
game had elements of tug-o'-war and chasey - the birds held it in their
beaks and pulled it about. If one got it to him/herself, he ran off with
it and was pursued half running, half in flight.  If two or three were
pulling in one direction, a bird on the far side would be dragged -
sometimes on belly with legs trailing, once or twice on his back. The
birds were  not making much noise, a little chortling or half-volume
calling, sometimes very soft, almost a whisper. Most birds were
apparently immature but one looked like an adult. This game went on for
about ten minutes. It seemed entirely good-tempered. No pecking at all.
   A day or two later I saw one immature bird on his own with the same
piece of bark. Again he was pulling it about in his beak and shaking it
- if he shook his head sideways and let go suddenly it would sometimes
skim away so he could rush after it and catch it again. Sometimes he
dropped it over a log and then flapped over after it.
   I mentioned this to the late Roy Cooper who told me that the resident
Whitebacked Magpies in his backyard played the same game every autumn.
   Little Ravens - I have often seen them apparently surfing on
updraughts and wind-eddies over our house and elsewhere. I assume it's
play because the same birds will do it again and again, when they aren't
going anywhere and could just as well perch.
   Anthea Fleming in Melbourne
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