Male Purple Sunbird playing with polystyrene ball

Arnav Coushik

March 27, 2023
male purple sunbird holding a polystyrene ball

Early on a Sunday morning, in the first week of March 2023, we visited Saul Kere, an urban wetland frequently haunted by several birdwatchers. The peculiar name for this lake comes from ‘Saavalu’ a Kannada word for clay. Saul Kere is spread across 62 acres and hosts plenty of resident and migratory birds.

A little under an hour into the walk, we spotted a male Purple Sunbird playing with a small white polystyrene ball with a diameter of about 6 mm. He would drop the ball from his beak and swooped down to catch it as it fell. We initially believed the ball to be stuck in the bird’s beak (a very likely scenario) which was not the case, much to everyone’s relief.

Several birds have been found to engage in object play, often involving plastics and polystyrene. In several cases, these objects have been used in the construction of their nests. A paper called ‘Do birds have the capacity for fun?‘ states that it is difficult to distinguish between object play and neophilia, a fascination and love for novel objects.

This occurrence also highlights the threat posed by pollutants to birds. They often mistake plastic debris and polystyrene for food and eventually starve to death as their stomachs are brimming with indigestible substances. Entanglement in plastic nets and such material, also causes injury and death to birds.

To cite this page: 2023. Male Purple Sunbird playing with polystyrene ball. Accessed on 2023-03-28.

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