Escape mechanism?

To: "chat line" <>
Subject: Escape mechanism?
From: "John Layton" <>
Date: Wed, 19 Jan 2005 18:35:35 +1100
Hi all,
Lately, members have been reporting their bird-watching highlights during the past year. Here's an unusual one for you. Unusual in itself, and unusual because it occurred when I was seven and I've never forgotten it.
We lived in a homestead 13 miles east of Wagga Wagga and, young as I was, I drove my elders nuts interrogating them about the local birds. I particularly coveted the parrots that came into the garden - Eastern and Yellow Rosellas and Red-rumped Parrots, or Grass Parrots as we called the RRPs.
Anyhow, late one summer afternoon, I was playing in the backyard when a house cat walked up to me carrying a Red-rumped Parrot in her mouth. Somehow, I discerned the little bird was still alive. I knelt beside the cat and grasped the parrot's tail feathers. As I remember, I didn't tug because I didn't want to hurt it. To my amazement, Puss immediately opened her mouth and released it. Then she sat and looked at me. Perhaps it was a similar situation to that whereby your cat walks into the kitchen, deposits a mangled mouse on the floor, and looks up at you as much to say, "Look at what I've brought home! Am I not a good and faithful provider?"
So, for two magical seconds I held the parrot by its tail. Then, suddenly, it sprang forth and flew away leaving me in a state of semi-shock holding the tail feathers.
This begs the question: does anyone know if birds (or some birds) have the ability to shed their tail feathers in order to escape a predator's clutches? I am reminded that some skinks and lizards shed their tails, run away and grow a new rudder.
John Layton
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