Saturday 11 November 2023

The Little Ringed Plover

On a cold December morning in 2021 at the Vena Lake in my hometown Nagpur, I observed a cheerful Little Ringed Plover perform a strange dance: repeated wiggling of the foot followed by pecking the mud. It was clear that this was an improvised hunting strategy, but how exactly it was working, I was not sure. A quick search led me to this paper and I discovered that this behaviour is a little more than just an improvised hunting strategy: the bird’s trembling foot could either be driving out hidden worms and insects directly, or altering the thixotropic properties of wet sand, turning it into liquid, and making catching a juicy tidbit easier!

I may not love physics as much as this little genius does, but we certainly agree upon one thing: the tactile pleasures of dining are lost on compulsive users of cutlery!

Comic strip from my Roundglass Sustain column.

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