Swallows, a dead snake and a horde of flies

on 1st July 2007


As Paul Chan was driving along Choa Chu Kang on the morning of 27th June 2007, he came across a decomposing snake lying across the road (above). It was obviously killed some time ago as it tried to slither across the busy road.

As Paul wrote in the Pigeon-holes e-forum: “the carcass had attracted a bunch of flies, which in turn attracted the swallows! It was very interesting watching the swallows go for the flies. Every time the swallows swooped down, the flies would scatter, and then almost immediately, congregated back above the snake. There must have been at least five to six birds going at it.”


The bird has been identified as Pacific Swallow (Hirundo tahitica) (left). This common resident, formerly found largely in the coastal areas, is now seen all over the island. The other swallow, the Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica), is a common winter visitor and passage migrant. It is distinct from Pacific in the presence of a black breast band and deeply forked tail.

The swallow feeds on insects, mainly flying ants. These are caught on the wing, together with flies, beetles, termites.

They often perch in pairs on a branch with a clear view of a bare area, waiting for passing insects. In this case the birds were taking advantage of the flies around the rotting snake, making multiple swooping flights to pick out the flies one by one.

Paul Chan
June 2007

(Image of snake by Paul Chan and of swallow by Johnny Wee.)

If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

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