Date:January 25, 2016
Source:University of Royal Holloway London
Snake-hunting Secretary Birds use the force of five times their body weight to stamp on and kill their prey.
A team of scientists from Royal Holloway, University of London, the Royal Veterinary College and the Hawk Conservancy Trust have discovered Secretary Birds can kick with 195 Newtons, which is equivalent to five times their own body weight, when they attack and kill their prey. And the contact time between the bird's feet and the snake is delivered extremely quickly -- on average just 15 milliseconds.
The study, published in the journal Current Biology, focuses on a captive male Secretary Bird called Madeleine, held at the Hawk Conservancy Trust, Hampshire.
Madeleine was trained to attack a rubber snake to demonstrate the hunting techniques of this type of bird. The scientists measured Madeleine's kicks by putting a force plate (hidden under artificial grass) in the bird's enclosure and pulling the rubber snake across the force plate.
As Secretary Birds hunt venomous snakes, a missed strike could have deadly consequences so the birds are capable of delivering fast, forceful and accurate foot strikes that are sufficient to stun and kill prey.