Terek Sandpiper: Foraging behaviour

posted in: Feeding-invertebrates, Waders | 1

KC Tsang wrote after his trip to nearby Johor, Malaysia in early December 2008:

“The Terek Sandpiper (Xenus cinereus) is an amazingly active feeder – I was observing it sprinting from one position to another, from distances of three to ten feet. It also changes directions in a very abrupt manner… On having ascertained that the prey is below the mud surface, the bird would then jab it’s long up-curved bill into the soft mud, turning and twisting it as it searches for tiny crabs.

“On having caught the prey, it would then yank it out of the mud and proceed to bash it on the mud, then to vigorously shake off the mud sticking to it. After having cleaned the prey and got rid of most of the crab’s legs, it would then proceed to swallow it whole.

“It is amazing that the bird is able to swallow the crab whole. It seems to be able to stretch open the base of its bill to accommodate the whole crab.”

According to Wells (1999), the Terek Sandpiper takes mainly small crabs and polychaete worms. On the other hand, Gils & Wiersma (1996) report that it also takes insects, small molluscs, crustaceans and spiders. It has a characteristic way of feeding – moving rapidly and changing directions all the time, often wobbling about and pecking at sand or water surface or even probing into the substrate. The bird also chases surface preys and often washes prey before swallowing.

Images by KC Tsang, photographed in Johor, Malaysia.

Gils, van J. & P. Wiersma, 1996. Family Scolopacidae (Sandpipers, Snipes and Phalaropes. In del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott & J. Sargatal (eds.), Handbook of the birds of the world. Vol. 3. Hoatzin to Auks. Lynx Editions, Barcelona. Pp. 444-533.
2. Wells, D.R., 1999. The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsular. Vol. I, Non-passerines. Academic Press, London. 648 pp.

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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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