Drumming for food on the gutter

Counting the wild is more than just numbers. Sometimes you document interesting behaviours.

written Feb 28, 2014 • by Jon Sullivan • Category: Wild Changes

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Here’s one of the natural history highlights of this years’ Field Ecology undergraduate course at Lincoln University. We stay at the Boyle River Outdoor Education Centre near Lewis Pass in the Southern Alps of North Canterbury. Just outside our bedrooms, a South Island robin, kakaruwai (Petroica australis australis) would show up most days to forage in the guttering. It would work its way along, drumming its foot to make a noise reminiscent of rain falling, and then it would dash into the guttering to retrieve invertebrates that it flushed out.

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A South Island robin rattling on the roofing iron to flush out insects from the gutter to eat. If the movie doesn't play here on your browser, you can click through to the original on Flickr.

It’s an interesting foraging behaviour. I must get a ladder next time I’m up there and see what happens when I drum on the guttering at a similar frequency.

I’ve since seen robins doing a similar same thing in leaf litter, drumming a foot and grabbing any invertebrates that they flush out.

Here’s the same observation archived on iNaturalist NZ.