Gaping Dollarbird

Samson Tan watched a pair of Dollarbirds (Eurystomus orientalis) “perching on this high vantage point waiting for any flying insects for breakfast (above left).” The bird on the left gaped widely, its mandibles stretched to the maximum and not making any sound (above right). Its companion on the right appeared to be puzzled (our anthropogenic interpretation).

Suddenly the bird on the left flew off, returning with a large beetle clamped between its mandibles. The bird on the right just looked on, showing no signs of interest.

After a failed attempt at swallowing the beetle, the bird whacked the beetle hard on the tree branch, with some fluid seen splashing out (above left). A second attempt at swallowing failed. The whacking continued. At the third attempt, the bird succeeded at swallowing the smashed beetle (above right and below).

“After this observation, I am curious if the stretching before the hunt is planned in anticipation of bigger prey?” mused Samson. “The beetle was seen flying nearby but the bird did not go for it right away, instead the bird took its own sweet time to do some [gaping] before the hunt.”

Well, what do readers think?

Samson Tan
Singapore
October 2011

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