There’s a brief scene in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) where Rey zooms by a rusty pile of metal frequented by a gnarly bird which hammers away at some scrap. It reminded me of some Warner Brothers Loony Tunes characters of a bygone era —its like a deranged Wood stork (Mycteria americana) with a pica. J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg came up with the idea.
The notion of a bird which eats metal is an interesting one. After all, chickens and other domesticated fowl ingest mineral grit to facilitate milling of food in a ventriculus. In fact, all birds have a gizzard. Perhaps the Steelpecker has one suited for digestion of metal. There are plenty of real birds that scavenge metal. The best known is probably the Eurasian magpie (suitably named Pica pica) which has a fondness for shiney trinkets, although a recent study suggest this is bunk. I’ve found pieces of foil and mylar in European sparrow nests —they’ll use anything for nest material, but I doubt they actually eat metal. Some water fowl do eat lead shot, but it kills them.
Sharks will ingest metal. I once saw Richard Dreyfuss pull a licence plate out of a Tiger shark carcass. Maybe that’s where Spielberg got the idea of metal-eating bird. In any event, I like this crazy bird. First we had power cable-eating Mynocks in The Empire Strikes Back (1980), and now a Steelpecker.