Maybe I'll become a twitcher?

To: <>
Subject: Maybe I'll become a twitcher?
From: Syd Curtis <>
Date: Sun, 17 Mar 2002 20:41:50 +1000
Think I'll become a twitcher.

No, not really, but my present intention is to start a list.  If I limit
its' scope, even I may be able to cope with the identifications.  So, as
from 9 March, 2002, I'm starting a list - restricted to those birds that I
see perched on a particular 2 metre length of branch outside my study
window.  List to date: Crow, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Spangled Drongo.

I reported some days ago of my telling a crow to ark-AAARK.  It was on that
branch.  This morning I was admiring a Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike perched in
the same spot, when a Drongo alit about 20 cm from it.

The Drongo had just caught a large grasshopper.  It placed the 'hopper on
the branch and held it with one foot while it removed and dropped, first
one, and the then the other of its' large jumping legs.  Next the head was
pulled off and it too was dropped.

Then the Drongo pulled the end off the abdomen.  Some gut came out with it,
and I expected the bird to swallow this, but no, it was just dropped.  Then
it took the whole carcass in its beak and shuffled it to get it lined up
with the front end into its' throat.  At that stage it tried unsuccessfully
to swallow it.  Got it about 2/3 inside before regurgitating it ... and
dropping it. 

With great alacrity the Drongo dived after its' prey and to my satisfaction
shortly reappeared with it and perched in the same spot.  This time it held
the carcass down while removing one forewing.  I expected it to remove the
other, but no, again it picked it up in its beak and again shuffled it into
swallowing position. And this time, albeit with obvious effort, it
eventually got it down.  I estimate that the grasshopper (minus head) was as
long as the combined head and beak of the Drongo.  Quite some performance.

Vigorous wiping of bill on branch followed before the Drongo flew into the
next tree and appeared to be looking for more insects, but after a few
seconds it flew again, and out of my sight.

Anyone know if a Drongo can digest all the hard parts - exoskeleton of
thorax and abdomen, four remaining legs, etc.?  Or can a Drongo regurgitate
a pellet of the undigested parts as do owls, or Currawongs for that matter?

Syd Curtis in Hawthorne (Brisbane)

PS The Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike remained for half a minute or so while
Drongo was preparing its meal, then departed.  Probably felt it cold do with
some more breakfast itself.

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