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therapod behavior



In a recent trip to the Detroit Zoo I saw a great illustration of therapod
behavior.  The Detroit Zoo lets peacocks roam free in the visitor areas,
including the outdoor cafeteria (yuck).  These are pretty substantial
creatures -- they must weigh 20 or 30 pounds and their feathers are close to
a man's height when displayed.  

My son dropped part of his sandwich making a fairly large spill of crumbs
and the nearest peacock went for it -- and so did about ten small birds,
maybe swallows.  What was fascinating was that the smaller birds had a very
precise algorithm that determined how much risk they would take to get a
crumb.  There was an invisible cone pointing downward from the peacock's
head and tracing an ellipse on the ground, maybe 18 inches away from the
peacock's feet -- its "strike distance".  The smaller birds would approach
right up to the edge of the peacock's strike distance, but not an inch
further.  It made me think this must be exactly how smaller dinosaurs dealt
with scavenging around the large carnivores.