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Playful waterbird: Australasian Darter (Anhinga novaehollandiae) plays with sticks

Ivan Sazima


Play with objects by birds is recorded usually for nestlings and juveniles. This behaviour is regarded as important for motor development and practice of essential skills, mostly foraging and breeding. Play is recorded for the Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga) in North America. For the remaining three recognised species play with objects seems unreported. Herein I present events of play with objects by a maturing individual of the Australasian Darter (Anhinga novaehollandiae) recorded at the urban area of Sydney, southeastern Australia. In one of the play events, the darter played with a stick it broke from a partly submerged tree it was resting on. In another event, the bird picked a floating pod, tossed it into the air and caught it again. As the Australasian Darter maturing individual possibly was a male, it could be practicing to gather sticks for nest construction, whereas playing with the pod is related to prey handling.

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