[Tweeters] Play with your food.

Louise Rutter louise.rutter at eelpi.gotdns.org
Sun Jun 30 09:52:55 PDT 2013

I saw a great blue heron (white variant) apparently playing with a fish down
in the Florida keys. The heron was at the edge of the mangroves along a
creek, and it caught and released that fish five times that I saw. Each
time, it carefully placed the fish in the shallow water at the very edge of
the creek, watched it thrash around only barely submerged for five seconds
or so, and then speared it again.

Was it enjoying fishing, or was it waiting for its dinner to stop wriggling
quite so much before it swallowed it? The fish was obviously injured and
getting weaker each time. But I've seen herons eat some very wriggly food in
the past, it doesn't seem to stop them!


From: tweeters-bounces at mailman1.u.washington.edu
[mailto:tweeters-bounces at mailman1.u.washington.edu] On Behalf Of jeff gibson
Sent: Sunday, June 30, 2013 9:18 AM
To: tweeters
Subject: [Tweeters] Play with your food.

Coming up to the back door at home the other day, I caught Betty the cat
torturing a rat. It was still alive and she came out of hiding to pounce on
the hapless rat, who she had obviously partially nailed already.

Torture? That's a human conceit mostly, unfortunately developed through
centuries of practice. No, Betty was just playing with her food! That wasn't
much consolation to the rat, I guess.

Many animals like to play with their food. I suppose it's sort of a luxury,
something animals do when they can afford to, in the survival game. Starving
creatures aren't gonna goof around. When they are really hungry- a single
gulp, or quick kill is the order of the moment.

I grew up in a family that had 3 square meals everyday - pretty luxurious
conditions. I felt like I was expected to eat an inordinate amount of mashed
potatoes, so my way of dealing with it was to play with my food. Under the
nearby watch of dinner table authority, I quietly created little Crater
Lakes full of butter, or Mt. Rainier's skirted by 'forest's' of indented
pea's. "Oh no!", I would think as I poured on more gravy, " a hot lava
flow!" , as the gravy covered the peas, or possibly broccoli trees. Later in
life, in slimmer times, I didn't play with tater's too much. Just ate 'em.

While cats like to play with their food, how about them dogs? When living on
an 80 acre farm up in Whatcom County, we used to watch Coyotes toss voles
around for fun. They'd pounce with fore paws, grab the vole, and toss it up
in the air (this was in tall grass) a few time's and catch it. Not really
necessary, just foolin' around.

A few year's ago when working on boat in Elliott Bay marina in Seattle I was
hanging over the shady side of the boat, when a baby Harbor Seal surfaced
right under my nose. It was idly chasing a little school of candlefish (or
something similar) around in a circle. Surely still feeding on milk, it was
just playing " hey mom, look at me, I'm fishing!". I saw a super-sized
version of this years before, as I watched a big adult ,below the cliff's
of Washington Park in Anacortes, going after a large 'herring ball' down in
the clear water - that was serious business.

While it seems like birds are playful in flight (l think of Crows and Ravens
especially), and swallows catch feathers in the air, over and over again, I
don't remember seeing birds 'play' with food too much. One time, working at
Elliott Bay marina again, I watched an immature Rhinoceros Auklet, just
below me. Sometimes one can be a quiet 'stump' in the woods and see great
stuff. You can also be a 'boat buoy' hanging over a boat. At any rate, the
auklet didn't see me, so I got great close looks at it (about 5 ft away), as
it fooled with a small perch it had caught. Over and over again it released,
then dove down in the clear water and recaptured the fish. At the time it
seemed like it had it by the head just right, then it would release it
again. Play? I don't know, the young Rhino spotted me and dove away - no
longer available for an interview.

Have you seen a bird play with it's food?

Jeff Gibson

ready for breakfast in

Everett Wa

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