For us humans to use a tool is not an uncommon thing in our day to day lives. Already today I used a knife to butter my toast, my car to get to work and a computer to write this blog.
However when it comes to birds, tool use doesn’t exactly jump to mind unless, of course, you’re a Black-breasted Buzzard where tool use goes hand in hand, or talon and beak, with the daily grind.
Slammer is our Black-breasted Buzzard at the QBE Free Flight Bird Show. Every day she comes out and demonstrates the fine art of breaking into emu eggs. Like most hawks she has a sharp hooked beak and a set of powerful talons, but unfortunately a little more is required to crack open the thick shell of an emu egg. For Slammer, she needs a rock. She’ll pick up this rock, heft it up into the air with her beak and then … slam it down! Hopefully this will grant Slammer access to the rich, glorious yolk inside.
In the wild emu eggs can be a little hard to come by, so this keen-eyed hawk will eat other things too, like small mammals, reptiles and insects. But when they come across one of these eggs, it’s like winning the lottery, as one egg can tide them over for quite a number of days; very important for a scavenging bird when food is scarce.
Other obstacles can stand between this hawk and its food source, including ‘dad’ emu. He will eventually leave the nest area though and that’s when the Black-breasted Buzzard must act fast and seize its opportunity.
Slammer had her very own obstacle today, but it had nothing to do with emus! We make our eggs daily out of plaster, but I think today one of our trainers made it out of cement. She wasn’t going to get in quickly, but Slammer kept working at it, hitting that egg with the rock. Showing much persistence, Slammer eventually got in, never deviating.
A true star of the show she certainly knew how to make the show very much all about her!
Bird Show Trainer, Brendan