Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Nyngan, NSW

Originally intending to drive on to Cobar, we stopped at Nyngan to check birds in the riverside park. The sun was out, the birds were in abundance, and the next-door, dog-welcoming caravan park beckoned. We pitched our tents beside the river, tired the dogs with a quick fetch/swim game and went for a walk.

When I spotted these two young Australian Magpies I thought one was injured, but it turned out they were playing like a pair of puppies.

Play is much better understood in mammals than in birds, but birds exhibit a range of play behaviours including object manipulation (tosss and catch), acoustic activities (wierd noises), locomotory play (funny walks) and social play. The corvids exhibit the most complex play known in birds, and these activities are probably part of the learning process for young birds, helping them to adapt to a wide range of situations.

Ficken's study found patterns in the types of avian play consistent with that of mammals. She concluded that orders with mostly altricial species tend to exhibit more play, especially social play, than do orders with precocial species, and that object play is most common play behaviour, especially in raptors.

Ficken, Millicent S. "Avian Play" The Auk, Vol. 94, No. 3 (Jul., 1977), pp. 573-582

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