Sulphur-crested Cockatoo flt 1800 ab BINNS IMG_9127 copy

Are Birds Left-handed?

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Aug 13, 2020 | by Adrian Binns

In honor of National Left Handed Day (August 13), it seems fitting to profile a “left-handed” bird! Of course birds don’t have hands, but studies have shown that Australian parrots prefer to use their left foot and left eye for grasping objects and coordinating activities. Apparently the majority of Australia’s Sulphur-crested Cockatoos and Glossy Black Cockatoos are left-handed/footed. This left-side dominance contrasts with humans, of which only about 10% are estimated to be left-handed.

Carnaby’s Black Cockatoo and Sulphur-crested Cockatoo

Left- or right-side dominance may occur in other birds, too, though there is still much to learn about this under-studied phenomenon. In crossbills, as their name implies, the tips of some upper mandibles curve left, others to the right – the ratio being about equal. Some work their way around a cone clockwise, others counter-clockwise.  

When an osprey leaves the water having caught a fish, it usually is holding it in what is likely its dominant foot, before adding the other foot onto the fish to position it to be aerodynamic.  When American Robins cock their heads to the side to listen and look for worms – do they have a preference for one side over the other? There is much to ponder for the curious-minded, whether you’re left- or right-handed!

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