FW: Food item grasping & scratching preferences

To: <>
Subject: FW: Food item grasping & scratching preferences
From: "Philip Veerman" <>
Date: Thu, 2 Sep 2010 18:43:20 +1000
Oops, I am already "very surprised" as the last bit of the text says that both methods have been described in some families................ I missed that............
-----Original Message-----
From: Philip Veerman [
Sent: Thursday, 2 September 2010 6:40 PM
To: 'Beth Mantle'
Subject: Food item grasping & scratching preferences

Hello Beth,
Re your second question. As far as I am aware this character varies to bird taxonomy. I would be very surprised if this would vary within individuals or even families of birds (by family I mean taxonomically), but odd birds like mousebirds might do something strange.  Here is a bit from one of my little old books "Bird behaviour" by John Sparks that answers you. I could have retyped it but why bother? There may be many more recent examples but I have no basis to doubt this description.
Philip Veerman
24 Castley Circuit
Kambah  ACT  2902
02 - 62314041
-----Original Message-----
From: Beth Mantle [
Sent: Thursday, 2 September 2010 5:33 PM
To: Geoffrey Dabb
Subject: Re: [canberrabirds] (Was Major Mitchell's Melon) - Food item grasping & scratching preferences

Geoffrey's email reminded me of an observation a couple of weeks ago:

Firstly, an Australian Raven was tucking into a large, discarded bread roll/pastry-looking-thing on Clunies Ross Street.  As I approached, the raven started to carry the obviously heavy item away from me, head and neck drooping from the load.  It then took off and, just as I was wondering how it would carry the pastry-thing and fly, it deftly passed the food from beak to feet in mid-air, and flew away.  I just thought it looked very cool.

And secondly, what determines whether a bird is an "under-wing" scratcher (uses feet to scratch body part from underneath the wings) or an "over-wing" scratcher (drops the wings and pokes the legs behind the shoulder in order to scratch said body part)?  Is this individual preference, does it vary inter-specifically, is it a passerine v. non-passerine difference, or random?


On 02/09/2010, at 10:36 AM, Geoffrey Dabb wrote:

As evident from the below, this is another cocky that some might regard as left-footed.  My own view is that right-footed birds hold the food in the left foot because it is less serious dropping the food than falling out of the tree.  That leaves the question:  which foot holds the food while the bird flies into the tree?  Answer:  neither (in the bill).  

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