The foraging behavior of blackfaced spoonbill—maintaining its
“spoon” in the water and making
sudden pecks at prey beyond the
tip of the bill—also suggests the
use of remote touch.
These two findings led Susan
Cunningham, a scientist at
Massey University in Palmerston
North, New Zealand, and several
of her associates to consider that
perhaps these organs are found in
other avian groups as well. They
decided to focus on ibis, a cosmo-
politan family of probing birds
found in a wide range of habitats.
Frequently referred to as tactile
hunters, ibis use their downward-
curved bills to probe and sweep
in mud, leaf litter, soil, and dry
cracks in the ground for inver-
tebrates and small vertebrates.
Foraging studies suggest that ibis
detect these prey items by direct
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