In the column “Since You Asked” in every issue of BirdWatching, Contributing Editor Julie Craves answers readers’ questions about birds and bird behavior. Here’s a question from our October 2015 issue:
Do any birds drink blood? — Lorrie Gregory, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Probably the most blood-dependent bird is a subspecies of Sharp-beaked Ground-Finch, which is found on two of the Galápagos Islands. Known as the Vampire Finch, it feeds on the blood of seabirds by pecking at the base of their feathers, creating a bleeding wound.
Vampire Finches do not consume blood exclusively. They also eat cactus nectar and pulp and the contents of bird eggs that they break open. Galápagos Mockingbirds have also been observed drinking blood from wounded birds and animals.
In Africa, the oxpeckers, the birds that ride around on zebras, impalas, and other large mammals, eat primarily ticks and other ectoparasites that feed on blood. Not only do oxpeckers obtain blood indirectly via ticks, but they’re known to peck at wounds and feed on blood and tissue, apparently keeping the wounds open for this purpose.
About Julie Craves
Julie is supervisor of avian research at the Rouge River Bird Observatory at the University of Michigan Dearborn and a research associate at the university’s Environmental Interpretive Center. She writes about her research on the blog Net Results, and she maintains the website Coffee & Conservation, a thorough resource on where coffee comes from and its impact on wild birds.
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