Connie Khoo of Ipoh, Malaysia came across a juvenile Buffy Fish Owl (Ketupa ketupu) at Kek Lok Tong in Ipoh, Perak recently. She was fascinated by the “yawning” behaviour of the bird and sent in this account to KC Tsang. Through the good office of KC, we got permission for this posting – on condition we include one of Connie’s cats.
“This morning I went to check on the juvenile Buffy Fish Owl and saw that it was still on the same tree after fledging between 24-28 June 2006. By now it should be about 10-11 weeks old.
“…the juvenile started to show some ‘action’ by cleaning its face, stretching and flapping its wings and also stretching its long neck. It was yawning a bit, and a bit, and a bit again. That was at 8.30 am. I decided to stay a bit longer and ended up staying about 4 hours.
“By 9.15 am I noticed something different in the yawning, because if we yawn, it lasts not more than 10 or maybe 15 seconds and we don’t open our mouth that long. The juvenile bird kept yawning and yawning for long durations and at times held its mouth open for 10-15 seconds, then closed its mouth and yawned again and again. I then realized that it was not yawning but probably strengthen its ‘jaws’. Just like birds flapping its wings to strengthen them as well as the body.
“Finally I made notes of the number of seconds each yawn took and how long the bird held its mouth open. It could hold it open for as long as 20 seconds, showing off its tongue. Can you imagine, the bird was yawning (exercising) from 9.15 am and at the time I left the place at 11.30 am it was still yawning.
Note: Yes, birds do yawn, as do other animals, includingh fish. Now why do they yawn? Maybe to clear their ears as we do during descent on jet flights. Maybe their throat or ears are itchy. Or do they yawn for the same reason we do – to get extra oxygen?
Thank you Connie and KC for making this yawning post possible.