Eastern Curlew swallowing technique - re Ibis RFI

To: Syd Curtis <>,
Subject: Eastern Curlew swallowing technique - re Ibis RFI
From: Brian Fleming <>
Date: Thu, 09 May 2002 15:34:05 +1000
Syd Curtis wrote:
> Watch say a kookaburra pick up an item of food, raise its head and
> point its
> beak upwards to juggle the item into the best orientation, then
> swallow.
> Watch an Ibis foraging - like the Straw-necked ones in our local park,
> when
> the lady who feeds galahs on her lawn adjoining the park, chases the
> Ibises
> away from there.
> I assume an Ibis is not stabbing the turf just to strengthen its' neck
> muscles.  Presumably it sometimes finds an item of food.  But it
> doesn't
> lift its head.  Just keeps looking down - beak pointing down - as it
> locates
> the next target.
> So how does it get that item of food up that long beak to swallow it,
> while
> the beak is pointing downwards?
> Any anatomist out there with the answer?
> Syd
I cant answer for ibis but the Eastern Curlew has much the same problem.
I once watched a Curlew in Sydney's Taronga Park Zoo, which was eating
what looked like tinned dog-food off a plate or dish.
Its technique was: Pick up piece with beak tips; raise head somewhat. 
Slide tongue forward under food item, catch onto it with backward
pointing projections on tongue (These were visible). Retract tongue
taking food with it. About a third of the way up, hold food with
mandibles while sliding tongue forward again. Repeat the ratchet action.
It took about three shifts to get the food to swallowing point. I saw
the whole sequence repeated a number of times, quite rapidly.
I had always wondered how curlews manage swallowing, so I found this
very interesting indeed.
I would not be at all surprised if Ibis use a similar technique. Perhaps
the anatomy of their tongues should be studied.

Anthea Fleming in Ivanhoe(Vic) - where it has just started to rain.
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