It is about thegreat bustard (Otis tarda), and is the heaviest flightless bird in the world. But according to a new study, these large birds may have an even more interesting characteristic: they seek out and use medicinal plants.
Unlike the creature that disappeared for 140 years, these birds are hard to ignore due to their sheer size and brilliant plumage. They also represent a rare example of animals using certain plants to heal themselves.
“In this study we show that the great bustard prefers to eat plants with antiparasitic chemical compounds.” said Dr. Luis M Bautista-Sopelana, lead author of the study.According to researchers at the Natural Sciences Museum in Madrid, these birds seek out herbs that are also used by humans in traditional medicine. Both plants have been shown to contain parasite-killing agents.
Great bustards, considered as a vulnerable species, are found in parts of Europe, Africa and Asia. Females typically remain at the birthplace for life, while males return to the mating site annually. By staying in the same area for extended periods, the risk of infections increases significantly.
“In theory, both males and females could benefit from researching medicinal plants during the mating season, when STDs are more common – males could also appear stronger and more vigorous by using these plants..” explained co-author Gonzalez-Coloma.
The team of researchers concludes by saying that great bustards could be the prime example of birds using specific plants for the purpose of self-medicate. However, more laboratory research will be needed to confirm this.
They are not the only specimens to have recently exhibited a characteristic unknown to us: there are some birds that lay blue eggs.