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Fowl play

Do birds laugh? We don’t know, but their antics certainly make us humans laugh.

Purple Swamp Hens are among the best bird comedians in Australia. They walk with a deliberate and measured stride, much like a stooped man walking, hands behind his back. They could be understudies of Groucho Marx. Their feathered costumes include a “snow white under tail-covert” which looks much like frilly underwear.

When we visit the ponds of Centennial Park, Purple Swamp Hens often run to meet us, expecting crumbs. They gobble small bits of bread, but larger chunks are held with the claws of one leg, raised to the mouth and eaten bite by bite. After they have dined, they do a measured walk around us, expecting more crumbs. And if there is no more bread forthcoming, they walk off in a huff, flouting their white underwear.

And they squabble among themselves sometimes. Hens of pond A are not welcome in pond B. But when pond B hens spy bread, they fly over, and much squawking and fluttering results. Bread is forgotten till victory in a just war is achieved.

And animosities are remembered. Recently we observed a fight that went on over several days. Daphne photographed a dramatic record of social conflict!

Click on the image to enlarge

Click on the image to enlarge

Posted by Dominic Gonzalvez at April 27, 2004 10:45 PM