Forensic Birding 2: Bird scats

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After forensic birding was first introduced to local birders in December 2005, a workshop subsequently conducted by “sometime” field ornithologist Wang Luan Keng (above, right) exposed us to its practical side. In addition to feathers, skeleton parts, eggs, etc., we looked at bird scats that are found on the ground (this we usually ignore), on the car windscreen (this we notice) and sometimes on ourselves (this we try to avoid). So we take bird scats for granted until they land on us.

However, it is useful to know their characteristics and be able to identify them. After all, when we see the scats, the birds are usually not around anymore. But how many of us are able to do so? If we are interested to know the bird better, we should also make an effort to know its poo too.

What are the characteristics of the scat? What can we find in the mess on the ground or the car? The shape of the scat can be telling! Whether ants gather for a feast, indicating the presence of sweetish matters? Then there is the white uric acid that most birds excrete. Also the presence of seeds, giving a clue as to what the bird has been eating. Indeed, we can tell much about the bird by examining the scat.

Luan Keng hopes to collect information on these scats. She has asked me to watch birds, especially when they poo and send her images of the scats. But she has specifically asked not to be send the genuine stuff.

So the next time you come across a scat, make a record of it and try ID the mess. Then pass it around for an interesting discussion.

Images of Pink-necke$ Green Pigeon’s scat and workshop by YC.

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