You may be familiar with the phrase “a hard nut to crack”, but what about an egg?! There is one bird that specialises in just this, the Black-breasted Buzzard, mostly found across Australia’s north. Slammer is our resident egg-buster at the QBE Free Flight Bird Show, which is very topical at Easter.
Every day Slammer 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 a rock is need to crack open the thick shell of an emu egg. She’ll pick up this rock, heft it up into the air with her beak and then … slam it down! Hopefully this will let Slammer get at the treat we put inside instead of the rich, glorious yolk of an emu egg.
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. One egg can tide them over for quite a number of days which is very important for a scavenging bird when food is scarce.
Although unusual, we cannot say this behaviour is unique. The Egyptian Vulture, found in parts of Africa and Europe, spends its time breaking into ostrich eggs.
In Slammer’s case though, it’s certainly unique, as I’m not sure how many of these birds will be given a bounty of novelty emu eggs to smash into! Although we’ve brightly decorated the eggs for the Easter shows, they still are the usual eggs Slammer busts into made by us keepers out of plaster. Because it looked a bit different, Slammer was unsure at first, but it only took moments before the work was done and there was quite a mess.
Thanks Slammer and Happy Easter!!
Brendan, QBE Free-flight Bird Show